Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the biggest names in NASCAR history. A 15-time Most Popular Driver award winner, he is a recent Hall of Fame inductee and the co-owner of JR Motorsports. His list of achievements in motorsports is lengthy, but here is the important information.
Earnhardt began his racing career at the age of 17, racing in the Street Stock division at Concord, North Carolina’s Motorsport Park. He spent two years in Street Stock before making the leap to Late Model Stock Car Division. Earnhardt partnered with crew chief Gary Hargett and found considerable success for nearly three seasons. However, the two men parted ways once Earnhardt brought his cars up to Mooresville, but he never forgot the lessons that Hargett provided.
“We were putting a decal on the hood. We had these giant Mom ‘n’ Pops logos. When I started, there were four of us,” Earnhardt said during an interview with Short Track Scene. “And when I finished, there was just me. I got done with this decal. It had bubbles all in it. It was terrible. I go outside, and Gary and two of the other guys that were there that were just volunteers, were sitting there drinking a soda.
“I was like ‘what the heck, why did you all leave?’ And he goes, ‘you run us out of there,’” Earnhardt continued. “And he said ‘you need to learn how to treat people’ because I’d been bickering at them the whole time putting that decal down. So, Gary taught me how to treat people with respect and he was a perfect mentor for me. He came along right at the right time.”
Following his time in Late Model Stock Cars, Earnhardt made his way to the Busch Series — now known as the Xfinity Series. He ran nine races in 1996 and 1997 before joining his father’s team on a full-time basis. Earnhardt proceeded to win the Busch championship in 1998 and 1999.
The future Hall of Famer made the leap to the Winston Cup Series in 2000, joining his father on oval tracks. He took part in all 34 races, winning two, and began building up his considerable fanbase. His first victory was the DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt continued racing for Dale Earnhardt Inc. until the 2007 season, racking up 17 Cup Series wins in the process. However, he made a major change prior to the 2008 season. Earnhardt joined Hendrick Motorsports on a five-year contract and replaced Kyle Busch. He partnered with teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Casey Mears while pursuing a Sprint Cup Championship.
Earnhardt never secured the elusive Cup Series championship, but he still registered 26 career victories during his time in NASCAR’s top series. This list includes the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500s. He also qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times (2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015).
Dale Jr discusses his 2004 Daytona 500 win with Regis Philbin. pic.twitter.com/6T07HlwHOY
— nascarman (@nascarman_rr) July 25, 2020
Earnhardt’s ultimately walked away from the Cup Series after the 2017 season. He cited multiple reasons, including a desire to start a family. Health concerns were also a reason considering that he missed half of the 2016 season due to concussions.
Since walking away from NASCAR, Earnhardt has continued to be involved in the sport. He is an analyst for NBC and helps provide coverage during the second half of the season while partnering with Rick Allen, Steve Letarte, and 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton.
When he isn’t calling races, hosting Lost Speedways on the Peacock streaming service, or interviewing guests on the wildly-popular Dale Jr. Download podcast, the retired driver is helping run a racing team. JR Motorsports fields several drivers across the Xfinity Series, Truck Series, and the Whelen All-American Series. JR Motorsports even has drivers that race in the virtual eNASCAR Series.
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