Earnhardt : Personal Facts
October 10, 1974
Chips and Salsa, Chicken
Seinfeld and The Tom Green Show
Likes all sorts.
Matthew Good Band
Is a big Elvis Pressley fan, not because of his music but
because of his life and what he went through
Cast Away, Almost Famous
Likes all of them
7 Winston Cup victories
2002: Won both Talladega events
2001: Won three times, including Pepsi 400 at Daytona
2000: Won The Winston
1999: Busch Series champion
1998: Busch Series champion
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has proven beyond any doubt that his name isn't the only
key to success.
Earnhardt began his professional driving career at the age of 17, competing
in the Street Stock division at Concord (N.C.) Motorsport Park. His first race
car was a 1978 Monte Carlo that he co-owned with Kerry. Within two seasons, the
young Earnhardt had honed his driving abilities to the point of joining the Late
Model Stock Car division. There, he developed an in-depth knowledge of chassis
setup and car preparation, while racing against Kerry and their sister Kelley.
With his father's guidance and his own experience on the short tracks throughout
the Carolinas, he was ready to take a bold step forward.
Before his Winston Cup rookie season in 2000, many thought Earnhardt Jr. was
the front-runner for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. It didn't pan out
that way, as frequent challenger Matt Kenseth outran Junior in the Daytona 500,
and never let up in his run to the title. Kenseth ultimately scored a 42-point
victory in the rookie race.
Earnhardt's close relationship with his cousin, car chief Tony Eury Jr., crew
chief Tony Eury and his crew, was both a blessing and a curse. The continuation
of his Busch Series success into Winston Cup created an atmosphere that was too
distracting and disruptive for the operation's success to continue.
Junior did have a part in recreating one Winston Cup milestone in 2000 when
he competed with his father and older half brother, Kerry Earnhardt, in the
Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. That occasion was only the second
time that a father had raced against two sons. Lee, Richard and Maurice Petty
had previously accomplished the feat.
Earnhardt Jr. came into the 2001 season thinking the biggest obstacle he
would face would be a sophomore slump. Instead, he endured the loss of the his
father in the Daytona 500 and went on to establish himself as one of the sport's
Earnhardt finished second in the Daytona 500, but faltered with a first-lap
crash and 43rd-place finish the next weekend at Rockingham. He didn't stay down
for long, though.
Junior scored three emotional victories and came back to finish eighth in
points. The first win came when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returned to
Daytona for the Pepsi 400. The second came at Dover, Del., in the first race
after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the third was in the EA Sports 500
at Talladega -- the site of his father's final victory. That Talladega victory
earned Junior a Winston No Bull 5 $1 million bonus. The season of emotion
produced nine top-fives and 15 top-10 finishes, as well as two Bud Poles.
In 2002, Junior had a roller-coaster season. He struggled after enduring a
concussion at Fontana in April -- an injury he didn't admit to until
mid-September. In the three races following Fontana, Earnhardt Jr. finished no
better than 30th. Still, Jnuior rallied to score two more wins at Talladega, a
pair of Bud Pole Awards and an 11th-place finish in the final standings.