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Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Birthdate: October 10, 1974
Hometown: Kannapolis, N.C.
Car Number: 8
Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Sponsor: Budweiser
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

Hobbies: Water Sports, Computers


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Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had seemed invincible in consecutive marches to Busch Series crowns in 1998 and 1999, learned a major lesson in career focus in 2000.

Before the season many thought Earnhardt Jr.. was the favorite in what would become a two-man race for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. It didn't pan out that way when Busch Series subordinate Matt Kenseth outran Jr.. in the Daytona 500, 10th to 13th, and never let up in his run to the title. Kenseth ultimately scored a 42-point victory in the rookie race.

The younger Earnhardt's campaign had two distinct faces to it and in the end, that dichotomy relegated him to 16th in the final point standings. "Little E" scored three victories -- two of them in Winston Cup points races -- but totaled only five top-10s the entire season. Amazingly, his 10th place finish at Dover in early June was his last top-10 of the season.

Earnhardt Jr..'s close relationship with his cousin, car chief Tony Eury Jr..; crew chief Tony Eury; and his crew, many of which had been with his Busch program, was both a blessing and a curse. The continuation of his Busch Series success to Winston Cup created an atmosphere that was too distracting and disruptive for the operation's success to continue.

In the second half of the season he had six finishes of 30th or worse, and by the time he figured out what had disrupted the smooth flow of success he experienced earlier in the year the season was over. Still, Earnhardt Jr.. became the second driver to score his first Winston Cup win at Texas Motor Speedway, with 1997 inaugural winner Jeff Burton; and also became the first rookie to win The Winston all star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. With his victories and two Bud Poles, he qualified for 2001's two special events, the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona and The Winston.

He did have a part in recreating one Winston Cup milestone when he competed with his father and older half brother, Kerry Earnhardt, in the Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway, making only the second time a father had raced against two sons. Lee, Richard and Maurice Petty had previously accomplished the feat.

In his sophomore year the pressure will be on the Kannapolis, N.C., native, but Jr.. has been faced with big expectations ever since he's been in racing. He's always met the challenge in his own carefully crafted and adhered to fashion.

Jr.. started 2001 with vivid dreams of a Daytona 500 victory in his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, pulling strongly in the same direction with the Eurys and his crew. Despite the idiosyncrasies of his rookie year, Earnhardt Jr.. has proven beyond any doubt that his name isn't the only thing that's gotten him to the level where he is.

The young man can drive a race car. In his two Busch Series championship seasons he scored 13 victories after giving little forecast before that, that he would be a threat to dominate his division.

Earnhardt Jr.. 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, where he developed an in-depth knowledge of chassis setup and car preparation while at times racing against Kerry Earnhardt 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. In his inaugural Busch Series event at Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 1996, Earnhardt Jr.. posted a seventh place starting position and a respectable 14th place finish.

Earnhardt Jr.. says he's never worried about living up to his surname and his success in NASCAR racing didn't really come as a surprise to the third generation driver. "I don't really think about carrying on the family racing name," Earnhardt Jr.. said of his grandfather, NASCAR national Sportsman champion Ralph Earnhardt and his seven-time Winston Cup champion father. "I'm just so proud of my family and real proud to be involved with my father in racing. It's a good relationship. I'm proud of my father and grandfather and what they've done."

Jr.. uses the No. 8 on his car fielded by Dale Earnhardt Inc., in honor of his grandfather's racing number.

 


News leading up to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s Winston Cup Debut:

Apr. 10, 1999   Earnhardt Jr. changes Cup plans
(AP) - Development delays with Chevrolet's new Monte Carlo have prompted a change in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s plans for his five-race Winston Cup debut this year. Earnhardt, who will make his initial Winston Cup appearance in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 30 just outside Charlotte, N.C., is adding the Sept. 11 night race at Richmond International Raceway to his schedule. The Richmond race takes the place of the Oct. 17 event at Talladega Superspeedway. "We had hoped to build a new superspeedway car for Talladega that we could also use next year," said Earnhardt's car owner and father, seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. "Unfortunately the new Monte Carlo is not going to be racing by Talladega, so we've had to make a change in our 1999 plans. It didn't make sense for us to build a car or have Dale Jr. drive a car that we could only use for one race."

The younger Earnhardt finished second and first on Richmond's
.75-mile trioval last year on his way to winning the Busch Grand
National championship. In addition to defending his series title
this year, he plans to run Winston Cup races at Charlotte,
Richmond, Atlanta, Michigan and New Hampshire before moving to
the top circuit on a full-time basis in 2000. "I feel bad for all
the fans who were hoping to see the No. 8 Budweiser car at
Talladega in October, but we'll be back next year," Earnhardt
said. "Richmond is a challenging track and I'm excited to get
some more experience racing under the lights. We had a lot of
success there last year, and hopefully we can carry that momentum
into September."



Jan. 13, 1999   Dale Earnhardt Jr. announces 1999 plans
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the recently-crowned NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion, laid out his NASCAR Winston Cup Series plans Tuesday night. He also debuted his new ride, the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.

The son of the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion will make his series debut at the Coca-Cola 600 on May 30 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt Jr. will also run the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire on July 11; the Pepsi 400 at Michigan on Aug. 22; the Winston 500 at Talladega on Oct. 17; and the season-ending NAPA 500 at Atlanta on Nov. 21. The number eight also holds major significance for the Earnhardt family, as Earnhardt Jr.'s grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, raced with that number.


Nov. 9, 1998   Nov 9, 1998 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. obtains No. 8

Dale Earnhardt, who purchased the No. 1 from Richard Jackson's team last year and put it on his car for Steve Park, has now purchased the No. 8 from the Stavola Brothers who are shutting down their operation in Winston Cup.  Dale's dad, Ralph, used that number, and his son, Dale Jr., will drive that number during his five-race schedule in Winston Cup next year.

 



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