Who is Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
Ralph Dale Earnhardt Junior, more popularly known by the name Junior among his peers, is a racing car driver and team owner. Being born in probably the most well known and respected American family in the car racing circuit, he had his aim fixed since his early childhood. He grew up watching his father, Dale Earnhardt, a NASCAR hall of fame member, as he succeeded in rocking the American NASCAR sport industry with his enigmatic personality and unmatchable driving skills. Dale Jr.’s perpetual success in Daytona International Speedway has earned him the tag ‘pied piper of Daytona’. He has won numerous other awards throughout his successful career. Dale Jr. has earned the ‘most popular driver’ award consecutively from 2003-16, 14 times in total, which swiftly sets him apart from almost all his contemporaries, cementing his place as the most looked upon stock car racing champion active today. However, despite winning several competitions, he is yet to become official the #1 ranked champion, and most of his fame still comes from his father’s grand legacy.
Childhood & Early Life
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was born on October 10th 1974 in Kannapolis, North Carolina, USA to Dale Earnhardt Sr., who was at the peak of his career at the time. His grandfather, Robert Gee, happened to be a prolific NASCAR car builder. His sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and half brother, Kerry, are also engaged in the same sport.
Dale Jr. admired his father from the early childhood and was fascinated by the glamour and the adrenaline rush which comes with car racing. He would force his father to bring him to the races and upon coming home; he practiced on his go-kart in his house, and sometimes on the racing track.
After his parents got separated, he lived with his mother for some time, but the dream of car racing brought him back to his father, who was by then living with his second wife. As the father was busy with racing most of the times, Ralph Jr. was mostly raised by his stepmother.
He worked at his dad’s car dealership as a mechanic before officially entering the professional car racing circuit and developed the love for cars by changing their oils, servicing and repairing the cars. He went on to earn a degree in automotive technology at Mitchell Community College.
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Dale Earnhardt kick-started his car racing career by the age of 17 as he competed in Street Stock Division, in the Motorboat Park located in North Carolina along with his father. He chose a 1979 Monte Carlo car for his first race which he bought from his savings, co-owned by his half-brother, Kerry Earnhardt.
As he turned 19 and got a significant experience in Street Stock Division of two good years, he moved ahead and joined the Late Model Stock Car Division. He drove a No. 3 Chevrolet and competed on multiple North and South Carolina short tracks in order to prepare himself the big leagues.
In 1998 and 1999, Dale participated in the NASCAR Busch Series and secured consecutive wins while driving full time for his father’s team ‘Dale Earnhardt Inc’. Following up Busch Series with a couple of more tournaments, he finally went all out in the Winston Cup series and a few other tournaments in 2000, and eventually ended up winning two of them and three top 5s.
He was devastated by the untimely death of his father in 2001 and as the emotional hell took a toll on him, his winning streak crumbled and he ended up at 43rd place in a race organized in Rockingham. However, he claimed the wins in Pepsi 400 and EA sports 500 in the same year and ended the year on the 8th spot of the overall sport rankings.
In 2002-2004, Dale had quite a rollercoaster of a time, and he ended up among top 10 in most tournaments while he also emerged as a winner in several other tournaments such as Tallageda races, Phoenix Competition and Daytona 500. In April 2002, he suffered a minor concussion during the Fontana race and did not admit to it until September that year and at the end of 2003 and 2004 seasons, he ended up winning the award for the ‘most popular driver’ consecutively.
His inconsistent performance continued throughout the following years owing to some minor accidents which hampered his prospect of earning the top ranking in the sport. His late race crash during the Daytona 500 in 2007 pushed him to 32nd spot in the race, and he ended up on the second spot in Pocono Raceway. By the end of the year, he became a proud recipient to the highly regarded ‘NMPA Chez Most Popular Driver Award’ for the fifth time in a row.
In 2008, Dale shocked everyone by announcing that he has left the company started by his father and will race for Hendrick Motorsports. He cited the reason that he wanted to compete for Sprint Cup Championship and the lacklustre staffs in Dale Earnhardt Inc. was not good enough to provide Dale with a good environment to participate in and win the tournament.
The year 2008 turned out to be a great one for Dale as he ended up winning Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duel at the start of the season and finishing second in Energy AMP 500 championship. Although for the most of the races, his performance remained uneven, most of it was due to the bad luck and brake failures.
In between 2008-2012 he competed in 143 races without any notable win to his name and the rumours regarding his retirement kept coming up. He ended up shutting the critics as he finished first in the Sprint Cup championship.
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In 2014, Dale won his second Daytona 500 tournament in a race plagued by rain causing a delay of more than six hours. He also bagged the Pocono Raceway championship that year and proved that he still has a lot of racing left in him.
Dale competed for and won the Coke Zero 400 tournament in 2015 in a race obstructed by the rain on a restrictor plate track and in the same year, he secured a victory later that year in Phoenix, which turned out to be his last victory until now. In the following year, he ended up winning the honour of being NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for the 14th consecutive time which is a record in itself.
On 25th April 2017 Dale announced that he will retire from professional car racing by the end of the season.
Personal Life & Legacy
Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his engagement to his long time girlfriend, Amy Reimann, on June 17th 2015 and married her on the New Year’s Eve that year after earning his record breaking 14th consecutive NASCAR Most Popular Driver Win.
Earnhardt has a wicked hobby as he owns a graveyard of wrecked up cars on one of his properties in North Carolina. He once said that his grand collection includes the cars driven by him which got crashed on the racetrack during the races.
As a child, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a football enthusiast and wanted to play for the Redskins but he was never considered for the same. He was told that he was not quiet ‘built’ for it.
His actual first name happens to be Ralph, his grandfather’s name.
He used to drive at number 8, but upon leaving his father’s company, Dale Earnhardt Inc., he changed his number to 88.
He is known among his friends by the nickname Little E.
Dale has also appeared in a number of music videos featuring some of the biggest names such as Cheryl Crow, Jay Z, Kid Rock and Nickelback.
Throughout his career, Dale has appeared in films such as 2006’s Tallageda Nights and hosted a TV show titled ‘Back in the Day’ where he educated the car racing fans about the legacies of several champions of 60’s and 70’s. He founded a production company named Hammerhead Production and produced several shows and kept appearing as guest on talk shows and documentaries.
Dale also has his own line of trendy eyeglass frames and he also ventured in automobile dealership business, partnering with Rick Hendrick.