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NASCAR Legend – Dale Earnhardt Jr
NASCAR’s most popular driver for five straight years, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is the only third-generation champion in the sport. Like many young drivers today, racing is in his blood.
His grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt won the NASCAR sports championship in 1956 and his father, Dale Sr. followed in his footsteps and was a seven-time cup champion and won 76 races. Both Ralph and Dale Sr. were selected to be among NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers of All Time. Today, Dale Jr. has made a name for himself in the racing world and already has 17 victories in less than 10 years of racing. The three Earnhardts together won 10 NASCAR championships.
Dale Jr. was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina and didn’t begin his racing career until he was 17 years old. It was then that he got involved in competing in the Street Stock division at Concord Motorsport Park. It didn’t take him long. to develop their driving skills and take them to the next level. Within two seasons, he was competing in the Late Model Stock Car division. He then tried his luck in the Nationwide Series and won back-to-back championships in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, Jr. competed full-time in the Winston Cup Series and competed with his father and half-brother Kerry in the Pepsi 400 in Michigan. It was a milestone in NASCAR history, only the second time a father raced against two sons. Lee, Richard and Maurice Petty were the first to accomplish this feat.
2001 was an emotional year for Dale Jr. His father suffered a serious crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 at Turn 4. Jr. was the first to rush alongside his father after the wreck but Earnhardt Sr. did not survive. . Jr. tried to bounce back the following week at Rockingham but finished 43rd. He did, however, return to winning ways at Dover and Talladega that year and took an emotional win at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona where he lost his father earlier that year. He was able to finish 8th in points.
In 2004, Jr. won the Daytona 500. It was six years to the day after his father had won the “Great American Race”. However, the year hasn’t been all fun and games for young Earnhardt. During an off-weekend practice, Jr. suffered an accident at Infineon Raceway. His car skidded, hit a concrete barrier and burst into flames. Jr. suffered second and third degree burns to his neck, chin and legs, preventing him from completing two races. Martin Truex Jr. and John Andretti had to replace him in the middle of the races. In the fall of 2004, Jr. was back in business and became the first driver to sweep the weekend at Bristol, winning the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races.
In 2002, Jr. decided to expand his talent outside of the seat of his race car. He created his own company, JR Motorsports. It consisted of just 6 employees and a Camaro to race the local short tracks. Since then, JRM has grown to over 100 employees and now has several cars that compete in the Nationwide Series and other local late splits.
In May 2007, Jr. announced that he would be leaving his father’s company, DEI, to join the Hendrick Motorsports team. He said his decision was based solely on a desire to progress in the sport and win a Sprint Cup championship. He wouldn’t take his No. 8 sponsor or Budweiser, for which he was so well known, with him. He did, however, bring along his cousin and crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. It didn’t take Jr. long to find his own way and his fans followed the #88 Chevrolet Mountain dew AMP/National Guard no questions asked. .
In July 2007, Dale JR Motorsports partnered with Hendrick Motorsports to run two full-time national teams with HMS engines, chassis and technology. Besides racing, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. owns Hammerhead Entertainment, a company that produces the TV show “Back In the Day” on SPEED and “Shifting Gears” on ESPN2. He is also involved in a project for a new track. Alabama Motorsports Park is located near Mobile and will feature stock car and KART racing as well as a road course.
One of his most recent endeavors is a bar named “Whisky River” in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. This well-rounded kid actually has a candy bar called Big Mo’ and recently started his own Navy recruiting division called the Dale Jr. Division. His sister Kelley, with whom he is very close, owns a realtor company with him called DEJ Realty Inc. The 2008 season marks Jr.’s ninth season in the NASCAR Cup Series and through 2007 he won over $46 million in career earnings.
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