For the third consecutive season, NASCAR is losing an icon.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire from the sport following the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but unlike Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart before him, Junior doesn't have a replacement driver being groomed to replace him.
There are a number of drivers in position to replace NASCAR's most popular racer, including the recently retired Carl Edwards, who quit the sport this winter after watching Earnhardt struggle with his health following a concussion this summer which forced him to miss the final 18 races.
Edwards reportedly isn't interested in joining Hendrick Motorsports but we are certain these five drivers would jump at a chance to replace Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet moving forward.
1. Alex Bowman
The most logical fit, Bowman replaced Earnhardt for 10 races last season when he was out with concussion symptoms. Bowman was welcomed by Junior Nation although he struggled a bit at the beginning. He managed to finish with three top 10s and was the pole-winner at Phoenix.
2. William Byron
Racing in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, the 19-year-old Byron has spent his childhood at the track, from growing up racing Legend Cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway to winning seven times in the Truck Series last year. He's under contract with Rick Hendrick but is more likely to be groomed to replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 than Earnhardt in the No. 88.
3. Kyle Larson
No driver is hotter than Larson right now and Earnhardt spoke highly of him during his retirement press conference on Tuesday. A media darling in his own right, Larson would maintain the 88 car's high profile, but could Hendrick get the points leader to make the switch from Chip Ganassi Racing?
4. Ryan Blaney
Another one of NASCAR's young guns, Blaney drives for the sport's oldest team, the Wood Brothers, in the famous No. 21 Ford. Like Junior to a lesser extent, Blaney's family has deep roots in motorsports, but he's a longshot to make the switch to Hendrick.
5. Justin Allgaier
Allgaier has driven in 76 Cup Series races and is currently with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series where he already has one win and sits third in the standings behind Elliott Sadler and Byron. Allgaier is a longshot as well, especially at 30 years old, but that also means he has the most experience besides Larson.