Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he will enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May, with his father Dale Sr.’s name being inducted alongside him at the ceremony. Junior is a six-time champion and has one win this year so far, making it the first time since 2005 that neither race winner was on probation.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is entering the NASCAR Hall of Fame with his father on his mind. The son will be inducted into the hall of fame in 2018, while Dale Sr. was inducted in 2010.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Dale Earnhardt Jr. realized early on that he would never be as successful as his father, who was a seven-time NASCAR champion.
It was ridiculous to expect him to compete on the track with the late Dale Earnhardt. The Intimidator was tough as nails, didn’t put up with bullshit, and had a winning record that earned him a spot in NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame class in 2010.
Junior has never won the Cup.
But he did manage to carve himself a career as NASCAR’s top spokesman, attracting a fan base that greatly outnumbers his father’s.
“Once I realized I wasn’t going to equal Dad’s numbers on paper,” Earnhardt told The Associated Press last week. “To me, my dad was this incredibly significant component of the jigsaw, and he was important because of his accomplishment but also because of the response to anything he did.” “‘Wow, that’s an asset,’ I thought. ‘That’s what being an asset to the sport is all about, and this person is valuable.’ I aspired to have the same worth.”
Earnhardt will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with Red Farmer and Mike Stefanik on Friday night, joining his father. In each of the hall’s first 11 years, five members were inducted, however the regulations were changed to reduce the number of inductees to three with the 2021 class.
Earnhardt is the most well-known member of this initial three-member class, whose entrance was delayed by the epidemic by a full year. He’s being honored not only for his racing achievements — 26 Cup series triumphs, including two Daytona 500 victories, and two championships in NASCAR’s second-tier series — but also for the significant role he’s played since his father was murdered on the last lap of the Daytona 500 21 years ago.
When Earnhardt’s father died at the opening of his second Cup season, he was a rising star. His father had developed a strong racing team at Dale Earnhardt Inc., and he had convinced Budweiser to sponsor his son; the brewer went all-in on promoting Junior to a wider audience.
The older Earnhardt was a celebrity, but his fans were mostly blue-collar workers who drove Chevrolets and wore Jeep Wranglers like their hero.
Earnhardt Jr. was featured in Rolling Stone magazine and appeared on MTV’s “Cribs” to show off his home’s nightclub. His crossover appeal gained him roles in music videos for musicians ranging from Trace Adkins to Nickelback to Jay-Z, and his father thought a lot of it was ridiculous.
When Dale Sr. was assassinated, his legacy was handed over to a 25-year-old who was still adapting to his celebrity. Despite the fact that Dale Jr. suffers from acute anxiety, he handled the limelight with stark honesty and real passion.
The third-generation racer is a 15-time winner of NASCAR’s fan-voted most popular driver award, and has created an empire around the sport that his family holds in such high respect over the previous two decades. Earnhardt has a profitable media firm, and his television special series “Lost Speedways” and the podcast “The Dale Jr. Download” are popular with fans.
He and his sister, Kelley, built their JR Motorsports racing team into one of the finest in the Xfinity Series, and he now works as a lead commentator for NBC Sports, where he influences how the sport is presented to its viewers.
Earnhardt died before he could witness what his children had done, leaving a vacuum that his son claims he can’t fill.
“I believe he’d be startled,” Earnhardt told the Associated Press. His father didn’t think his children would be good racing car drivers, therefore his two Busch Series championships surprised him.
“I believe he’d be thrilled and proud, but he’d also be a typical Dad, saying things like, ‘Well, if you tried a little harder here,’ or ‘If you had done something different there,’ and ‘Maybe you should prioritize this,’” Earnhardt added. “That’s precisely what I’d anticipate from him now, and I’d welcome that kind of criticism.”
Because of a tense relationship with the older Earnhardt’s wife, Earnhardt quit DEI six years after his father’s death; the racing team no longer exists. Earnhardt’s free-agent courtship was one of the most intense in NASCAR history, and he signed with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.
He thinks his father would think he didn’t live up to his full potential on the track. He concurs.
“Once I came to Hendrick and truly grasped what it takes to be a driver, I look back on the Bud years and think, ‘Wow, I could have done so much more with that because I had some really good racing cars and we had a heck of a crew,” Earnhardt said.
“There are certain regrets, blunders, and things I wish I could go back and change. Dad would have definitely pointed them out.”
Earnhardt accepts his off-track accomplishments, which includes a near-daily effect on NASCAR, with reluctance. He evaluated the new Cup vehicle at Daytona International Speedway last week so he could appropriately analyze it in front of an audience, and he persuaded the Hall of Fame to allow Stefanik’s widow to speak at the event on Friday night.
He has always believed that he can persuade NASCAR’s harshest critic. In his father’s absence, he’s spent the previous two decades holding NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton in high esteem, sure that if his father’s close buddy appreciates him, he’s doing something right.
Despite this, Earnhardt avoided any criticism from his father, praising his sister, who is a co-owner of JR Motorsports.
Earnhardt added, “I believe Dad would be very proud of Kelley and who she has become, the level of respect, her stature, I think it would mean a lot to him.” “He’d give her credit and tell me that she’s a big reason why we’ve been able to do so much.” And he’d be correct. But he wouldn’t tell her, you know. He’d speak to Kelley about me and tell me about Kelley.
“I’d give everything to hear his thoughts on all we’ve done and everything we’ve been a part of. I’d give everything to know exactly what he was going to say. It’s something I’m always thinking about.”
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame with his father on his mind. Dale Jr.’s sister, Kelley, and brother, Kerry, are also going to be inducted into the hall of fame. Reference: dale earnhardt jr siblings.
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