The Mans History
was never any doubt in Dale Earnhardt's mind about what he wanted to be in life.
As a young boy watching his father Ralph race -- and win -- in Stock car events
throughout the Southeast, Dale developed a love for the sport that would
ultimately fuel one of the most successful careers in the history of motorsports.
In his late teens, Dale began racing Hobby-class cars in and around his native Kannapolis, NC, working full-time by day, welding and mounting tires, and either racing or working on his cars by night. He financed his own effort, oftentimes having to borrow money to buy parts and pieces to run on the weekends, hoping to win enough to pay back the bank on Monday.
In 1973, Ralph Earnhardt died of heart failure while working on his race car. Crushed by the loss, Dale eventually learned to cope by becoming more determined than ever to be successful as a driver. He continued to compete on the Sportsman circuit, racing at speedways near his home such as Hickory, Concord, and Metrolina Fairgrounds.
Dale made his Winston Cup debut in 1975, finishing 22nd while driving Ed Negre's Dodge in the World 600 at Charlotte in a deal put together by CMS President Richard Howard. Over the next three years, he made a total of eight more starts, the last of which was the 1978 Dixie 500 at Atlanta, when he drove a second car for Rod Osterlund. Earnhardt finished fourth in the race, one spot behind Osterlund's regular driver, Dave Marcis.
Marcis left after the 1978 season to start his own team, leaving Osterlund with a list of candidates to fill the seat in his Chevrolet. He decided to take a chance on the young driver, and offered Dale his first full-time Winston Cup ride for the 1979 season. Earnhardt considers the offer the biggest break of his career.
In his first full season of competition, Dale scored his initial Winston Cup win at Bristol in just his 16th career start. Eight races later, he notched his first career pole at Riverside. By the end of the season, he had driven to 11 Top 5 finishes and beat Harry Gant, Terry Labonte and Joe Millikan for the rookie title in one of the most competitive rookie battles ever.
In 1980, with a young, yet solid team, good equipment and the determination to prove he belonged at racing's highest level, Earnhardt beat tough veteran Cale Yarborough for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series title to become the only driver ever to win the rookie crown and the series' championship in consecutive seasons.
Midway through the 1981 season, Osterlund sold his team to Jim Stacy. Earnhardt, disenchanted with the performance of the new team, left after only four races, deciding to finish the season driving for Richard Childress. By the end of the year, Childress realized that his cars were not performing at a level that justified a talent like Earnhardt's, so he urged Dale to accept an opportunity to drive for the well-established team of Bud Moore and big-dollar sponsor, Wrangler. Earnhardt accepted the ride in the #15 Fords, in which he competed for two seasons, winning three races and finishing 12th, then 8th in the points.
Meanwhile, Childress, with driver Ricky Rudd, was building his team into a championship contender. In the off-season between 1983 and 1984, Earnhardt made the decision to rejoin Childress. Driver and owner immediately began a program to achieve the level of performance both believed would take them to a NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Neither could have envisioned the success they would achieve together.
The duo captured their first championship two years later, in 1986, beginning a reign that would bring them six titles over the next nine seasons, accumulating records that attest to the talent and ability of one of the greatest drivers ever to have raced the short tracks and superspeedways of NASCAR. The highlights include:
Seven NASCAR Winston Cup championships ('80, '86, '87, '90, '91, '93, '94)
The only Winston driver to win Rookie of the Year and the Championship in successive years (1979, 1980).
Career winnings in excess of $30 million.
Five-time NMPA Driver of the Year ('80, '86, '87, '90, '94)
Only three-time winner of "The Winston" ('87, '90, '93)
Only six-time Busch Clash winner ('80, '86, '88, '91, '93, '95)
Three-time IROC champion ('90, '95, '99)
Earnhardt has won nearly every major event and title available to NASCAR Winston Cup drivers, including the Daytona 500.
In February 1998, Dale Earnhardt
captured the only major victory that had eluded him throughout his career, the
Daytona 500. The win was the 71st of his career and came in his 575th Winston
Cup start, placing him sixth on the all-time wins list.
Of his future in racing, Earnhardt says "We've got a good solid agreement with Richard [Childress] and the Goodwrench folks and Larry McReynolds through the year 2000. We feel and I feel that I can win races, I can win championships. Hey, they haven't seen the last of me and I can guarantee they haven't seen the last of RCR. We've got a lot to accomplish, a lot to go out and do. I'd like to win 25 more races before I quit racing, and I'd like to win another championship. That's on my list of things to do.
Earnhardt Through The Years
|Year||Sponser||Car Model||Quick History|
|1956||None||Ford Victoria||Dale’s 1st racecar|
|1975||None||Dodge||Dale’s 1st stock car|
|1976||Army||Malibu||Driven at Charlotte|
|1976||HighGain||Malibu||Drive at Atlanta|
|1978||None||Monte Carlo||Launched Dale’s career|
|1979||Crane Cams||Monte Carloä||1st full time season|
|1980||Wrangler & Mike Curb||Monte Carlo||1st championship win|
|1981||Wrangler||Pontiac & Monte Carlo||First year with R.C.R.|
|1982||Wrangler||Ford Thunderbird||Only Wrangler with number #15|
|1983||Wrangler||Ford Thunderbird||Second year with Bud Moore|
|1984||Wrangler||Monte Carlo||First year driving #3|
|1985||Wrangler||Monte Carlo||Still looking for that 3rd Championship|
|1986||Wrangler||Monte Carlo||Second Championship|
|1987||Wrangler||Monte Carlo||Final year Wrangler sponser|
|1988||Goodwrench||Monte Carlo Fastback||Car pays homage to Ralph E.|
|1989||Goodwrench||Lumina||12 points away from 8th championship|
|1995||Goodwrench||Monte Carlo||Silver Select scheme was ran|
|1996||Goodwrench||Monte Carlo||Broke Track record at Warkins Glen|
|1997||Goodwrench||Monte Carlo||8th stock car persuit vehicle|
|1998||Goodwrench||Monte Carlo||Winner of the Daytona 500|