Bristol Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell participated in a media interview session this afternoon to discuss his thoughts regarding today's announcement by NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

What were your initial thoughts when you heard that Dale Jr. had made the decision to retire?

"I was a bit surprised at the timing, but I'm excited for him and glad he’s able to do this on his terms as he has wanted to do. His family is such a part of this sport. After what he struggled with last year you want him to be able to call the shots on his terms."

What does he mean to this track? His sweep weekend here is one of the most memorable moments here. He’s the most popular driver, so he’s a big part of the show.

"He is and his father was and prior to that Darrell Waltrip was and Rusty Wallace. He’s in great company. They’ve all had great impacts on our sport and will continue to. If you look back on those other names, like Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace, they continue to make an impact on our sport. Jeff Gordon is doing the same thing now. I think you’ll see Dale Earnhardt Jr. do the same thing. He’s going to be around in the sport."

Do you know if this announcement has already increased ticket demand for the August race?

“There’s certainly a buzz around. If I am a race fan I want to see him on the high banks that one last time. He hinted in his press conference about possibly running some Xfinity races in the future, which will be exciting too. But you’re going to want to see him in these last few Cup races he has for the remainder of the season. We hope he is able to turn this season around and finish on a strong note. I have a feeling this has been weighing on him for a while. It should free him up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come alive in the last part of the season.”

With him stepping out of the car, we’ve seen other popular drivers also step out of the car like Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart recently. What impact do you feel his retirement will have on the sport?

“It is interesting timing, but I think all sports go through these phases. If it’s a Michael Jordan or any of those others when you go around sports and kind of name the greats. I have never seen in my history with this sport, about 25 years or so, the crop of young talented drivers that we have coming up. There is so much excitement and enthusiasm and you can go down the list with Kyle Larson, Ryan Blayney and Chase Elliott and on and on. I am excited to see how those guys are going to come along. I am really excited to hear Dale reference that he wants to be a mentor to those guys and show them the ropes and there’s no one better to do that. I think it bodes well for the future of NASCAR.”    

With the struggles he’s had early this year do you think getting this news out of the way will help him relax and enjoy the rest of his time this season?

“I would think the last year has weighed heavy on him and he has had a lot happen to him in the past year. This has got to be a big relief for him to be able to get it out there and then just focus on driving the race car and I know he wants to do that for his team and his fans. He wants to be able to finish strong.”