The Dale Jr. Story Moves To Halls of Fame

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 24 2022

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was honored twice in recent days.(RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

Twice in three days Dale Earnhardt Jr. was inducted into two halls of fame – the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday and the National Motorsports Press Association on Sunday night.

It’s an accomplishment that immediately sends one scurrying to the record books to peruse the 47-year-old Earnhardt’s statistics. His Late Model days were mediocre and his family wasn’t sure if he would make a good race car driver, but they decided to give him a chance. Tony Eury Sr. headed Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s Busch Series (now Xfinity) team and it was his firm hand that guided the operation to two consecutive series championships with the young Earnhardt as his driver. Eventually, Earnhardt’s Xfinity Series record would show 24 victories and 10 poles.

The third-generation driver matured in his profession, eventually acquiring 26 NASCAR Cup victories, including two Daytona 500s. He also became the first rookie to win the All-Star race, and claimed two Budweiser Shootout and five Daytona 500 qualifying race victories. He became a master of the high speed chess games at Daytona and Talladega, just as his father, seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, had done. He competed in the International Race of Champions and commandeered podium finishes in his two ventures into the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In 2001 he, his father, Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins drove to second place in the GTO class and fourth overall. Three years later he teamed with Andy Wallace and Tony Stewart for a third-place finish in the DP class and fifth overall.       

However, there’s more to Dale’s story than statistics. Many in the NASCAR community remember him as the youngster who thought he could get away with anything at the race track because Dale Earnhardt was his father. Then in his teenage years there was a stint at Oak Ridge Military Academy in Oak Ridge, N.C. His older sister Kelley attended the school with him because she didn’t want him there alone. When they returned Dale and his brother Kerry shared a mobile home as their residence and all three siblings competed in Late Models. Dale raced at Myrtle Beach, S.C., Kelley at Tri-County in Granite Falls, N.C., and Kerry at Hickory, N.C.  At the time Dale was shy, enjoyed partying and sleeping until noon, a lifestyle that remained with him for several years and often angered his father. Still, there were those who held him accountable for his actions and they helped him mature into a man, a good husband and father, and a leader in his sport.

Dale took that first step into manhood in 2001 after his father’s fatal crash in the Daytona 500. Many fans blamed Sterling Marlin for the crash and threatened his life. The then 26-year-old Earnhardt stepped forward and told the fans to stop, that it wasn’t Marlin’s fault, and they listened. 

In 2016 Dale became outspoken about the detriments of concussions and spoke frankly about the issues he faced in regards to the multiple ones he had suffered during his career. Concussion syndrome resulted in him stepping out of a race car fulltime and moving into the TV booth. Dale was shy no more, he had found his voice. His stance on something is now well-known, whether it’s good or bad.

Dale entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame with Red Farmer and Mike Stefanik. He was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame with Steve Kinser, Dan Gurney, Richard Howard and crew chief Herb Nab. 

Dale joins his father and grandfather in the NMPA Hall of Fame, making the Earnhardt family the first to have three generations in that hall of fame. But importantly he has picked up where his father left off as a leader in NASCAR. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 24 2022
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