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How a retiring star exposed NASCAR's big problem

NASCAR's popularity is in decline. Can it really all be down to the departure of a driver who never won a title? And is the series' strategy for replacing its lost Earnhardt fans misguided?

Attendance is down at NASCAR Cup Series races in 2018, television ratings for US stock car racing's top category continue to dip and long-time Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr is retired after an unparalleled run as NASCAR's most popular figure. And those factors are linked, rather than coincidence.

In the context of a series trying to reinvent itself and return to its role as the behemoth of American sport - look no further than the debut of the controversial, but somewhat popular, stage racing format in 2017 - it cannot afford to go backwards.

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