Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the Daytona 500.JPG
Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015
Born (1974-10-10) October 10, 1974 (age 40)
Kannapolis, North Carolina, US
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight 165 lb (75 kg)
Achievements 1998, 1999 Busch Series Champion
2004, 2014 Daytona 500 Winner
2000 The Winston Winner
2003, 2008 Budweiser Shootout Winner
Awards 20032014 Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver (12 times)
1999 Busch Series Most Popular Driver
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career
543 races run over 17 years
Car no., team No. 88 (Hendrick Motorsports)
2014 position 8th
Best finish 3rd (2003)
First race 1999 Coca-Cola 600 (Charlotte)
Last race 2015 Auto Club 400 (Fontana)
First win 2000 DirecTV 500 (Texas)
Last win 2014 Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 (Martinsville)
Wins Top tens Poles
23 227 13
NASCAR Xfinity Series career
133 races run over 19 years
Car no., team No. 88 (JR Motorsports)
2014 position 88th
Best finish 1st (1998, 1999)
First race 1996 Carolina Pride / Red Dog 250 (Myrtle Beach)
Last race 2015 Boyd Gaming 300 (Las Vegas)
First win 1998 Coca-Cola 300 (Texas)
Last win 2010 Subway Jalapeño 250 (Daytona)
Wins Top tens Poles
23 86 10
Statistics current as of March 22, 2015.

Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. (born October 10, 1974), known professionally as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jr. for short, or DE2, is an American stock car racing driver and team owner. He is the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr. He is also the grandson of both NASCAR driver Ralph Earnhardt and stock car fabricator Robert Gee, the brother of Kelley King Earnhardt Miller, the half-brother of former driver Kerry Earnhardt, the uncle of driver Jeffrey Earnhardt, the stepson of Teresa Earnhardt and the older half-brother of Taylor Earnhardt-Putnam.

Earnhardt Jr.'s success at the Daytona International Speedway throughout his career, has earned him the nickname as the "Pied Piper" of Daytona.[1] Earnhardt Jr. is a two-time Daytona 500 winner, with his victories coming exactly 10 years apart (2004, 2014), and has won the Most Popular Driver Award twelve times (consecutively from 2003–2014).[2] He has an estimated net worth of $300 million.

He currently drives the No. 88 Nationwide Insurance / Diet Mountain Dew / Kelley Blue Book-sponsored Chevrolet SS in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports and drives the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro for his own team, JR Motorsports, in selected events in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Racing career[edit]

Early life and career[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. has German ancestry.[3] He was raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the son of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Brenda Lorraine (née Gee; born January 2, 1952).[3] His maternal grandfather, Robert Gee Sr., was a NASCAR car builder.

Earnhardt Jr. attended the high performance driving school run by Andy Hillenburg[4] and began his racing career at the late age of 17 with his dad Dale Earnhardt, competing in the Street Stock division at Concord, North Carolina's Motorsport Park. His first race car was a 1979 Monte Carlo that he co-owned with his older half-brother, Kerry Earnhardt. Within two seasons, Earnhardt Jr. had honed his driving abilities to the point of joining the Late Model Stock Car division. He competed on the North and South Carolina short tracks driving a No. 3 Chevrolet. While he did run various tracks during this time, Earnhardt Jr. primarily focused his efforts at the Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina and the East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville, North Carolina, where he captured the pole for the Greenville Merchants 300 on October 28, 1994. There he developed an in-depth knowledge of chassis setup and car preparation, while racing against his older brother Kerry and his sister Kelley. He worked at his father's dealership as a mechanic while he went to Mitchell Community College to earn an associate degree in automotive technology.[5]

Earnhardt Jr. ran nine Busch Series races between 1996 and 1997 for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and Ed Whitaker, respectively, before driving for his father's team in the Busch Series full-time in 1998, in which he started the season with an amazing blowover after contact with Dick Trickle and Buckshot Jones at Daytona, on the same weekend that his father won his first and only Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. won consecutive NASCAR Busch Series Championships in 1998 and 1999 barely edging Matt Kenseth. In 1998 he made his first start in the Winston Cup Series, at the exhibition race held in Motegi, Japan. Also in 1999, he drove in 5 Winston Cup races in the No. 8 Budweiser-sponsored Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and then in 2000, he went full-time in the Winston Cup series.[6]

2000[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. (far right) racing alongside Mike Skinner and Jerry Nadeau (left) at the 2000 Coca-Cola 600

2000 was Earnhardt Jr.'s breakout year in the Cup Series. He competed for the Raybestos NASCAR Rookie of the Year Award in 2000. His primary competitor for the award was Matt Kenseth. Kenseth outran Earnhardt Jr. in the season-opening Daytona 500. Earnhardt Jr. scored his first win in the DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, breaking the record held by his father Earnhardt Sr. for fewest starts by a driver to earn his first victory in NASCAR's "Modern Era" by winning in just his 12th start, and also at Richmond International Raceway. He became the first rookie to win the All-Star exhibition race.

Earnhardt Jr. played a part in recreating one Winston Cup milestone in 2000 when he competed with his father and half-brother Kerry in the Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. That occasion was only the second time that a father had raced against two sons — Lee Petty and his two sons Richard and Maurice had previously accomplished the feat.[7]

Earnhardt Jr. ended the year with 2 wins, 3 Top 5's, 5 Top 10's, and 2 Bud Poles.

2001[edit]

In 2001, the major event of the season occurred on February 18, in the final corner of the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. As Earnhardt Jr. pushed his teammate Michael Waltrip to the finish line on the final lap, he finished 2nd, to Waltrip. His father had crashed in turn four after Sterling Marlin made contact with his left rear bumper. Earnhardt Sr. shot up the track into the outside wall behind Waltrip and his son and collected Ken Schrader. Earnhardt Sr. was killed instantly in the crash by a basilar skull fracture.

In the aftermath, many disgruntled fans sent death threats to Sterling Marlin and his family, blaming him for the crash; Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip both requested that fans stopped blaming anybody for Dale Sr.'s death and both the local police and NASCAR investigations into the crash cleared Marlin of any involvement. Earnhardt Jr. raced at Rockingham the following weekend, but finished in 43rd-place after a wreck on the first lap that looked eerily similar to his father's wreck just one week earlier. In the later part of the season, Earnhardt Jr. made a comeback, beginning with an emotional win at the Pepsi 400, which was also the first race held at Daytona since Earnhardt Sr.'s death. Earnhardt Jr. had the dominant car of the race, leading 115 out of 160 laps. On the last restart, Earnhardt Jr. managed to make a move from 6th to 1st place in the span of two laps, with Waltrip holding off the field as Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag. He won the MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400 at Dover, which was the first Cup race following the September 11 attacks as the original scheduled race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was postponed until the end of the season. After the race, he performed a Polish victory lap while holding a large American flag out the driver's side window.

In the fall, Earnhardt Jr. took his second restrictor plate win as he won the EA Sports 500 at Talladega as a crash unfolded on the back straightaway that caused Bobby Labonte to flip over and also collected 15 other cars. The Talladega victory earned Earnhardt Jr. a Winston No Bull 5 $1 million bonus. He was docked 25 points, however, after his car failed post-race inspection. With this win, DEI swept three of the four restrictor plate races for 2001, only failing to win the spring Talladega race.

Earnhardt Jr. finished the 2001 season 8th in the points standings with 3 wins, nine Top 5's, and fifteen Top 10 finishes, as well as two Bud Poles.[8]

2002–03[edit]

Dale Jr. at the Pepsi 400 in 2002

In 2002, Earnhardt Jr. had a roller-coaster season. He struggled after enduring a concussion at the Fontana race in April — an injury he did not admit to until mid-September. In the three races following Fontana, he finished no better than 30th. However, Earnhardt Jr. rallied to sweep both Talladega races (leading a dominating 133 of 188 laps in the spring race), a pair of Bud Pole Awards and an 11th-place finish in the standings with eleven Top 5's and sixteen Top 10 finishes.

In 2003, he became a true title contender, scoring a record-breaking fourth consecutive win at Talladega, after being involved in a 27-car crash on lap 4. He struggled for most of the race, and was at points a half-lap down, only catching back up to the pack through a caution. The win was controversial because on the last lap, it appeared that Earnhardt Jr. went below the yellow line to gain position, but NASCAR ruled that Matt Kenseth had forced Earnhardt below the line, making it a clean pass.

He later scored a victory at Phoenix in October, recording a career best 3rd place effort in the standings, with thirteen Top 5's and twenty-one Top 10 finishes. He also took home the NMPA Most Popular Driver award for the first time in his career.[6]

2004–06[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. in the pits at the spring 2006 Bristol race

In 2004, Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500, six years to the day after his father won his only title in the Great American Race (and 3 years after his father was killed in the 2001 race). Earnhardt Jr. came very close to sweeping Speedweeks, as in addition to the Daytona 500, he also won his Gatorade Duel and the Busch Series race. However, he finished 2nd in the Budweiser Shootout to Dale Jarrett.

On July 18, during the summer off-weekend, Earnhardt Jr. crashed a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R during a practice for the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. The car slid off course and hit a concrete barrier during warm-up the day of the race, rupturing a fuel line and causing the car to burst into flames with him still inside. He suffered second and third degree burns on his neck, chin, and legs partially due to not wearing a protective balaclava with his helmet. The burns prevented him from finishing two races where he was relieved by Martin Truex Jr. (at New Hampshire) and his DEI teammate John Andretti (at Pocono) in the middle of the races. In the fall, Earnhardt Jr. became the first driver to sweep a weekend at Bristol by winning both the Busch and Cup races in the same weekend.[citation needed]

Dale Earnhardt Jr and the Bud race team in the winners circle

Earnhardt Jr. was able to qualify for the NASCAR 10-race playoff, and had his 5th NEXTEL Cup win of the season (a career high) at Talladega. However, he was penalized 25 points for use of an obscenity during the television broadcast, in violation of a new NASCAR rule prohibiting participants from using obscene language[9] (the rule had been created the week after the Daytona 500, in the wake of the Super Bowl half-time show controversy). That incident, combined with two consecutive DNF's in the Chase, eventually dropped him out of the running, and he finished fifth in the 2004 NEXTEL Cup Chase despite a career-high 6 wins at Daytona, Atlanta, Richmond, Bristol, Talladega and defending his fall win at Phoenix (though under the non-Chase points system, Earnhardt Jr. would have tied his third place points finish of the previous year). He closed off the 2004 season with 6 wins, sixteen Top 5's, and twenty-one Top 10 finishes. He also picked up his 2nd consecutive Most Popular Driver Award.[citation needed]

At the close of the 2004 season, it was revealed that Tony Eury Sr. would be promoted to the team manager position for the DEI corporation, while Tony Eury Jr. became the crew chief for Michael Waltrip for the 2005 season. Peter Rondeau, a Chance 2 employee who also helped Earnhardt Jr. win the Busch Series race at Bristol in August, became the crew chief for Earnhardt Jr. in 2005. Rondeau served as Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief until the Coca Cola 600 weekend, when he was replaced with DEI chief engineer Steve Hmiel, who helped Earnhardt Jr. score his lone win of 2005 at Chicagoland in July, when he took the lead from Matt Kenseth on the last cycle of pit stops. Earnhardt Jr. was eliminated from any possible competition for the NEXTEL Cup championship after suffering an engine failure at the California Speedway. Earnhardt Jr. was reunited with his cousin, Tony Eury Jr., after the fall Richmond weekend, and results improved immediately. Earnhardt Jr. finished the season 5th in points, 139 points behind champion Kurt Busch. For the 3rd straight year, he took home the NMPA Most Popular Driver Award.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. merchandise hauler

Earnhardt Jr.'s proficiency as a car owner continued. His race team outside of DEI, JR Motorsports, in 2005 fielded a car in the USAR Hooters ProCup Series, winning once and qualifying for the Four Champions playoff. Mark McFarland moved to the Busch Series in 2006, driving the No. 88 JR Motorsports US Navy Chevrolet, with Richard Childress Racing providing assistance; however, he was fired before the fall Michigan race, the Carfax 250. He was replaced by Robby Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. for the rest of the year. Long-time short track racer Shane Huffman drove Earnhardt Jr.'s USAR Hooters ProCup car in 2006. In 2006, during the spring weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, Earnhardt Jr. and other DEI drivers drove with special black paint schemes on their cars, reminiscent of his late father's famous No. 3 paint scheme. On Father's Day in 2006, he drove a vintage Budweiser car at Michigan International Speedway to honor both his grandfather (Ralph Earnhardt) and his father, who at one point in both their careers used the #8 car. After rain caused the race to be ended early, Earnhardt Jr. finished 3rd with Kasey Kahne winning the race. After 17 races in the 2006 season, Earnhardt Jr. sat 3rd in the championship standings with 1 win, coming at Richmond in May 2006.[citation needed]

During the race at New Hampshire, he experienced the second engine failure of his 2006 season, ultimately leading to a 43rd-place finish. Following New Hampshire was the race at Pocono, where he was running in the middle of the pack when he crashed in turn 2. These two events catapulted him to 11th in the points standing, out of the Chase for the Cup. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. and his crew made a critical decision to stay out on the final pit stop to get a much needed Top 10 finish to move him up to 10th in the points. He made the 2006 Chase for the NEXTEL Cup after finishing 17th in the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 9, 2006. He came close to winning at Talladega, and was leading on the last lap when Brian Vickers made contact with Earnhardt's future teammate Jimmie Johnson, sending Johnson into Earnhardt Jr. and spinning both of them out. His points position going into the Chase was 6th. He finished the season 5th in the point standings, 147 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.[citation needed]

2007[edit]

Dale Earnhardt Jr. turning into the garage at Texas Motor Speedway in 2007
Dale Jr.'s No. 8 Sharpie Busch car at the Sharpie display at the 2007 Ford Championship Weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway

Earnhardt Jr. began the 2007 NEXTEL Cup season by finishing 32nd at the Daytona 500 as the result of a late race crash. His first Top 10 came at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 500, where he finished 7th. His first Top 5 came at Martinsville Speedway in the Goody's Cool Orange 500. He led 136 laps and finished 5th. He collected his third Top 10 of the season and his 8th at Talladega Superspeedway with his 7th-place performance in the 2007 Aaron's 499. On May 14, he was docked 100 driver championship points, car owner Teresa Earnhardt was docked 100 owner points, and his crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 races due to the use of illegal mounting brackets used to attach the wing to his car. During the April race at Texas Motor Speedway he drove the last 10 laps in the No. 5 car of Kyle Busch owned by Rick Hendrick.

On May 27, 2007, Earnhardt Jr. rode a camouflage No. 8 car in the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day to raise money for the families of military troops. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Ward Burton, Denny Hamlin, Casey Mears, Shane Huffman and Jon Wood also changed their paint schemes for the occasion.[10] He finished eighth, after leading with seven laps to go, but Casey Mears finished with the win.[11]

On August 5, 2007, Earnhardt Jr. earned his first pole position in a race since 2002 at Pocono Raceway. Although Kurt Busch won the race, Earnhardt had a dramatic comeback to finish 2nd after spinning out and experiencing shock troubles. Earnhardt led for eight laps before Busch took over.[12] On August 12 at Watkins Glen International, Earnhardt Jr. was making the push into the Top 12 of the Nextel Cup standings from his No. 13 position. After being at the No. 2 position during the race, Earnhardt Jr. had engine problems on lap 64 and had to end his race day. After the Glen, he tried furiously to reach the 12th spot in standings. However, a resurgence by Kurt Busch and a blown engine during the final race at Richmond ended his Chase hopes. That was his last chance to participate for the Championship at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI). After the 2007 season, Dale Jr. won the NMPA Chex Most Popular Driver award for the 5th consecutive time.[13]

Move to Hendrick Motorsports[edit]

After much speculation, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced on May 10, 2007, that he would leave Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company founded by his father, to drive for another team in 2008. Earnhardt expressed that his decision was based entirely on his desires to achieve his career goal of a Sprint Cup Championship, and his apparent belief that he would not be able to attain that objective while driving for DEI. He said that unless he could gain majority ownership, and therefore control, of DEI, that he was not confident in the organization’s ability to field the elite level equipment that would yield the elusive title.[14]

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) standing between two different paint schemes for the No. 88 Chevy, with Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, and Rick Hendrick, in Dallas where the announcement was made on September 19, 2007

On June 13, 2007, he announced at a press conference that he had signed a five-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kyle Busch. At the time, Hendrick consisted of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Casey Mears. One month later, on July 13, it was announced that his long-time primary sponsor Budweiser would not be with Earnhardt Jr. when he made the move to Hendrick. Other contractual agreements in place at Hendrick Motorsports are said to have prevented a relationship with Bud.[15]

On August 15, 2007, it was announced that Dale Jr. would not be taking his familiar No. 8 with him to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. His late grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, used that number and Dale Jr. picked it when he entered the Cup Series in 1999. His father also used No. 8 early in his career. Dale Jr. blamed his stepmother for not allowing the No. 8 to move with him to Hendrick Motorsports. Earnhardt Jr. said negotiations broke down when Teresa Earnhardt asked for part of the licensing revenue, along with wanting the number back after he retired.[16] (The No. 8 team, after a successful season in 2008 with co-drivers Mark Martin and Aric Almirola, would end up being shut down in 2009 after DEI's merger with Ganassi Racing.)

Earnhardt Jr. moved to the No. 88 car with Tony Eury Jr. coming to Hendrick to remain as his crew chief.[17] On September 19, the official announcement was made that Earnhardt Jr. would be driving the No. 88 Mountain Dew AMP/National Guard Chevrolet Impala for the 2008 season.[18]

The No. 88, according to NASCAR archives, was driven by Ralph Earnhardt, his paternal grandfather, in 1957. His maternal grandfather, Robert Gee, was one of the first employees of All Star Racing, initially a Late Model Sportsman (now Nationwide Series) team with Gee as Hendrick's partner, which is now Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick said about Earnhardt and his uncles, "I can look at Robert Gee Jr., or Jimmy Gee, or Dale Jr., and all I see is Robert Gee. They're the spitting image of him. I go back and look and pictures from when we did things together, and I have to say, I owe Robert a lot."[19] Starting in the 2008 season, Hendrick Motorsports merged its Nationwide Series team to Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports, with the cars coming from Earnhardt's shop, which employs his mother and uncles. Earnhardt Jr. was the second Dale to drive a car with the number No. 88, as the number had previously been used by Dale Jarrett at Yates Racing.

2008[edit]

Earnhardt at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr. addresses the media at Hendrick Motorsports headquarters on January 23, 2008

Earnhardt Jr. started the season by winning the 2008 Budweiser Shootout a non-points paying exhibition. It was his first race for Hendrick. He led for a total of 47 out of 70 laps, a Budweiser Shootout record. He followed that up five days later with a win in the Gatorade Duel. This was his third career win in the duels, however he was unable to follow it up with victory in the Daytona 500, finishing 9th. Ryan Newman was the winner of the event.

Earnhardt Jr. was docked 50 points because his rear spoiler did not meet the specified height in the Nationwide Series. His crew chief Chad Walter was fined $35,000, suspended for 6 races and was placed on probation until December 31, 2008. Team owner Rick Hendrick was also docked 50 owner points along with Earnhardt Jr.[20]

At Michigan, Earnhardt Jr. broke his 76-race winless streak, managing to stretch his fuel mileage enough to allow him to win under a caution on the last lap of a green-white-checkered (overtime) finish. He did not find much success after the Michigan win. He then went back to Talladega Superspeedway for the AMP Energy 500 where he was en route to a possible win before being caught up in "The Big One" late in the race. He headed to Martinsville Speedway where he finished 2nd to teammate Jimmie Johnson. He ended the season in the garage area at Homestead Miami Speedway in The Ford 400 after losing his brakes with just a few laps to go in the race. Earnhardt finished the season 12th in points, 557 points behind champion Jimmie Johnson.[citation needed]

2009[edit]

In the season-opening Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr. began well, even leading for a lap. However multiple misfortunes, including a missed pit stop and a 1-lap penalty for pitting outside of his pit box, sent him far into the back of the running order. Earnhardt Jr. was then directly involved in a controversial crash on lap 124, when, while fighting to return to the lead lap, he came in contact with Brian Vickers while fighting to be the first driver one lap down (who gets a free pass should the caution flag come out), causing a 10-car pileup which included Denny Hamlin, Scott Speed, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Robby Gordon, Jamie McMurray, and Carl Edwards. Vickers and Kyle Busch later criticized Earnhardt Jr., who denied purposely clipping Vickers. Earnhardt Jr. criticized Vickers for blocking him on the inside. When the race concluded early due to the rain, Earnhardt ended with a 27th-place finish. Earnhardt later apologized for his actions but maintains to this day that he never intended to wreck Vickers.

After a blown engine at California and falling to 35th in the owners points, he finished 10th at Las Vegas and reached 29th place in points. He finished 8th at Martinsville. He had a string of poor finishes including 20th at Texas, and 31st at Phoenix after being spun out by Casey Mears. He gained confidence in his team with a very strong performance at Talladega, leading for 20 laps, and finishing 2nd to his protege Brad Keselowski after Keselowski sent Carl Edwards flying into the catch fence in one of the year's biggest upsets. However, two weeks later at Richmond, Earnhardt Jr. finished 27th. He was again spun out late in the race at Darlington and ended the race in 27th place. He then finished 10th in the All-Star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Earnhardt Jr.'s poor performance continued as he finished in 40th at the Coca Cola 600 due to an ill-handling race car.

On May 28, 2009, Tony Eury Jr. was let go as crew chief of the No. 88 team. Lance McGrew was named interim crew chief and was scheduled to take over, starting with the June 2009 Pocono Race with team manager Brian Whitesell calling the shots at Dover the previous week.[21] McGrew was scheduled to work with Brad Keselowski at Dover, but after a failed qualifying attempt by Keselowski, was able to take on his duties for the No. 88 team a week early. Dale Jr. managed to finish 12th at Dover for the Autism Speaks 400 with his new crew chief after contending for the lead. At Pocono Raceway, however, he again ended with a 27th-place finish. After the change in crew chiefs, Earnhardt Jr. was consistently better, finishing fifteenth at Chicagoland Speedway; however, during that time he also had one DNF at Daytona International Speedway where he was taken out of the race early in a large pileup.

At the Carfax 400 at Michigan, Earnhardt Jr. charged to the front near the end of the race and managed to finish 3rd; he also earned his second Top 5 finish this season in the same race. One week later at Bristol, Earnhardt finished 9th in the Sharpie 500, but his bad luck continued at the Auto Club Speedway, when he was involved in a multi-car incident. After a 39th qualifying run at Lowe's Motor Speedway, he said "I'm about to the end of my rope".[22] At the fall Talladega race, Earnhardt Jr. had a solid run, including leading several laps, before finishing in 11th place. Lance McGrew had the "interim" taken off of his title, and he continued working with the No. 88 team through the end of the 2010 season.[23] Earnhardt Jr. ended 2009 winless, and finished a career low 25th in the standings.

2010[edit]

On Saturday, February 6, 2010, Earnhardt Jr. qualified second overall for the 52nd Daytona 500 after losing the pole position to teammate Mark Martin. He started 1st in the Gatorade Duel No. 2 on February 11 of that year. He finished 11th in the 2010 Budweiser Shootout after struggling with an ill-handling car for most of the race.

On February 13, 2010, while running in the front of the pack at the Daytona Nationwide Series race, Earnhardt Jr. was caught up in a multi-car wreck, causing his car to flip upside down on the backstretch. He walked away from the wreck uninjured. His driver Danica Patrick was caught up in another wreck before Earnhardt Jr.flipped.[citation needed]

On July 2, 2010, Earnhardt Jr. raced the No. 3 blue and yellow Wrangler Chevrolet (painted to pay tribute to his father and fans) and drove it to victory lane in the Nationwide Series Subway Jalepeño 250 at Daytona. He finished the 2010 Season on November 21, 2010, ranking 21st. Hendrick Motorsports then did a major crew chief shuffle, pairing Earnhardt's crew chief McGrew with Mark Martin, while Gordon's crew chief Steve Letarte moved to the 88 team, and Gordon got Martin's crew chief, Alan Gustafson. On December 2, 2010, it was announced that Earnhardt Jr. won the NMPA Most Popular Driver award for the 8th consecutive time.[citation needed]

2011[edit]

Earnhardt at Bristol

He began the season by drawing the pole position at the 2011 Budweiser Shootout, where he finished 19th in the race.[24] On February 13, he earned his first pole position at Daytona International Speedway, as well as his first at a track that uses restrictor plates. Due to a practice crash, he had to start at the back of the field for both the duel race and the 500. He finished 24th in the Daytona 500 after being wrecked with 4 laps to go.[25] Over the next seven races, Earnhardt Jr. would achieve five Top 10 finishes, including a 2nd place finish at Martinsville after losing the lead to Kevin Harvick with 4 laps to go, and a 4th place finish at Talladega in a photo finish with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, and Kevin Harvick. Earnhardt Jr. came within half a lap of snapping his then-104 race winless streak at the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, when he ran out of fuel during a green-white-checkered finish,[26] finishing 7th. The following week at Kansas, Earnhardt Jr. finished 2nd to Brad Keselowski. He followed this up with a solid 6th-place finish at Pocono. Over the course of the next three races, Jr would slide to 7th in the Championship points, finishing 21st at Michigan, 41st at Infineon, and 19th at Daytona. On September 1, 2011 Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he had signed a 5-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the #88 until 2017. On September 19, 2011, Earnhardt Jr. made his first Chase for the Sprint Cup appearance since 2008 at Chicagoland. At the season finale at Homestead, he finished 11th and finished 7th in the final points standings. On December 1, 2011, it was announced that Earnhardt Jr. won the Most Popular Driver award for the 9th consecutive time.

2012[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. started 8th in the Budweiser Shootout, led for several laps, and finished 20th after being caught up in a six car crash on lap 55 that also involved Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. In the Gatorade Duel, Earnhardt Jr. performed strong, starting on the outside pole in the first duel race. He led a few laps in the early part of the race before finishing second to Tony Stewart after his Nationwide Series teammate Danica Patrick smashed hard into the inside wall in a last lap crash on the back straightaway. In the postponed Daytona 500, he finished in 2nd place behind Matt Kenseth, after passing Greg Biffle on the last lap. At Phoenix, Earnhardt Jr.'s car struggled most of the race and came out with a 14th-place finish.

At Las Vegas, Earnhardt led 70 laps early but finished 10th based on bad pit strategy. At Bristol, Earnhardt Jr. finished 15th following a late race contact with teammate Jeff Gordon, and a speeding penalty. Earnhardt Jr. would back this up with a pair of back to back 3rd place finishes at Auto Club and Martinsville Speedway, leaving him second in the standings.

In the following weeks, Earnhardt would bring a string of Top 10's: 10th at Texas, 7th at Kansas, 2nd at Richmond, and 9th at Talladega, where he led 10 laps. The following week, Earnhardt Jr. struggled for most of the race at Darlington, and had to settle with a 17th-place finish. At the All-Star Race, Earnhardt Jr. won the Sprint Showdown, leading all 40 laps to race his way into the big event. In the event, Earnhardt Jr. won the 4th segment and in the final 10 lap shootout, had to settle for a 5th-place finish. The following two weeks, Earnhardt Jr. would post of finishes of 6th at Charlotte and 4th at Dover heading into the summer months. At the newly repaved Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt. Jr. led 36 laps during the race, but made a late race fuel pit stop from 3rd place with just over 20 laps to go, finishing 8th and standing 2nd in points. At the 2012 Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan, Earnhardt Jr. dominated the race, leading 95 laps, and won, snapping a 143-race winless streak, almost four years to the day after his last win on June 15, 2008.[27] Earnhardt Jr. would suffer a 23rd place finish at Sonoma after being wrecked in a green-white-checkered finish, but was still able to cross the finish line intact and on the lead lap, continuing his streak of being the only driver to finish all races on the lead lap. He would back this up with a fourth place finish in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

The following week at Daytona, a last lap crash resulted in a 15th-place finish for Earnhardt Jr. but still kept his streak of being the only driver to finish every single lap in every race. Earnhardt backed up with a couple of Top 5 finishes, finishing 4th at both Loudon and Indianapolis, where he gained the points lead for the first time since 2004, after points leader Matt Kenseth was taken out in a late race crash. Back at Pocono, Earnhardt Jr. was running in the 2nd position, but a break in the transmission sent the 88 to the garage, but he came back out 18 laps down and finished 32nd, due to rain that came and ended the race and a late race wreck involving Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Denny Hamlin. His streak of completing on the lead lap came to an end, but he still maintained the points lead with 5 races until the chase cutoff. At Watkins Glen, Earnhardt had a steady Top 10 going in the final laps but a late race spin resulted in a 28th-place finish, this would drop the 88 team from 1st to 4th in the points.

Earnhardt Jr. in his National Guard uniform

Returning to Michigan for the Pure Michigan 400, Earnhardt Jr. had to start in 42nd place after a crash in practice forced him to move to a backup car. He led for a number of laps mid-race and finished on the lead lap in 4th place. Earnhardt Jr.; Ryan Newman; and Kasey Kahne also escaped engine difficulties that plagued Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart. At Bristol Motor Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. started 16th after a qualifying rainout; he led 13 laps in the race before pit road penalties resulted in a 12th-place finish. The finish locked him into the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup, alongside Greg Biffle, and teammate Jimmie Johnson. At Atlanta Motor Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. went a lap down early but recovered to earn a 7th place finish. The following week at Richmond International Raceway, Earnhardt Jr. earned his first pole of the season. He would go on to lead 69 laps, but a late race pit stop resulted in the 88 team getting a 14th-place finish, and being seeded 7th in the standings. In the first race of the chase at Chicagoland Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. finished 8th despite having to start at the rear of the field due to an engine change. Finishes of 13th and 11th at Loudon and Dover left the 88 team 7th in the standings.

Sidelined by a concussion[edit]

On the morning of October 11, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Earnhardt Jr. would have to sit out the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte and the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas due to a concussion from a 23-car crash on the last lap at Talladega on October 7. That weekend, Earnhardt Jr. finished 20th at Talladega when he took a hard lick in a crash after making contact with Bobby Labonte. Prior to this, Earnhardt Jr. had suffered a concussion during an August 29 test at Kansas Speedway. Regan Smith was announced to replace him at those two races.[28] Prior to the concussion, Earnhardt Jr. had competed in 461 consecutive races, dating back to the 1999 Atlanta event. The 2012 Bank of America 500 marked the first race since the 1979 Southern 500 that an Earnhardt had not competed in the Sprint Cup Series as Dale Earnhardt had competed in every race from that one up until his death in the 2001 Daytona 500.[29] On October 23, Earnhardt Jr. was cleared for the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville after missing two races. He started strong in the race, but a late race spin with Carl Edwards placed for a 21st-place finish.[30] His first top ten finish after returning to the track was a seventh place finish at Texas. At Phoenix, Earnhardt Jr. fought an ill-handling car, and finished 21st. At the season finale, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. would finish 10th. This is his first top 10 finish at the 1.5-mile track, and his 20th this season. He closed the season 12th in the final standings. On November 29, 2012, it was announced that Earnhardt Jr. won the NMPA Most Popular Driver Award for the 10th consecutive year. This ties Bill Elliott's streak of 10 consecutive wins in the award.

2013[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. during practice for the 2013 NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
Earnhardt Jr. on pit road during the 2013 STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Earnhardt Jr. started the 2013 season with an 8th-place finish in the rechristened Sprint Unlimited. He qualified 11th for the Budweiser Duel, but he blew an engine in practice, he was forced to drop to the rear of the field. After narrowly missing a 3-car wreck between Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne, and Regan Smith, he finished 9th. He finished fourth at the DRIVE4COPD 300 after submarining under Alex Bowman's car in a violent last lap wreck.

In the Sprint Cup Series, Earnhardt Jr. hit a slight resurgence, and in the first five races of the season recorded three Top 5's and five Top 10 finishes. It began with a second place finish to teammate Jimmie Johnson at the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr.'s third runner up finish in the 500 since 2010. The following week at Phoenix, he led for 47 laps, but was shuffled back in traffic during a cycle caution flag pit stops, which allowed Carl Edwards to assume the lead while Junior finished in fifth place. This was followed by two more Top 10 finishes: 7th at Las Vegas and 6th at Bristol. At Fontana, Earnhardt Jr. started mid-pack and after a couple of mistakes including a lengthy pit stop caused by missed lug nuts on a right rear tire, he came home in 2nd-place finish, assuming the points lead as a result of Brad Keselowski going off pace and falling back. Two weeks later in Martinsville, Earnhardt Jr. struggled throughout the race, and spun out after Danica Patrick was hit by Brian Vickers and sent into Earnhardt Jr. and ended up finishing 24th, 2 laps down, losing the points lead to Jimmie Johnson.[31]

At Texas, Earnhardt Jr. ran near the front until lap 187, when his battery alternator quit and he ended up finishing 29th. At Kansas, he ran near the front until a debris caution happened while he, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Carl Edwards were all on pit road. Earnhardt Jr. would go a lap down, take the wave-around, and finish 16th. At Richmond, he finished 10th. At Talladega, he went a lap down early after some banging with Joe Nemechek. However, with a caution for a crash on lap 43, Earnhardt Jr. got the free pass to get back on the lead lap. He made his way back up through the field to the Top 5, but slipped back to 17th at the end.

The following week at Darlington, Earnhardt Jr. raced inside the Top 10 much of the night before settling for a 9th place finish. He was one of only a few cars who were able to avoid being put a lap down by Kyle Busch.

The following week in the Sprint All-Star Race, Earnhardt Jr. battled a tight handling car much of that night before finishing 7th. The following week for the Coca-Cola 600, Earnhardt Jr. lost an engine and finished 39th, giving him his first DNF since 2011. The next two weeks saw a rebound, with finishes of 10th at Dover and 3rd at Pocono. At the Quicken Loans 400, Earnhardt Jr. led 23 laps but suffered an engine failure, and finished 37th in what was the lowest point of the season for the Hendrick Motorsports teams as a whole (Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon both had DNFs due to crashes, and Jimmie Johnson cut a tire with 5 laps to go).[32] After the low of Michigan, Earnhardt Jr. had a 12th-place finish at Sonoma.

At Kentucky, Earnhardt Jr. won the pole and set a new track qualifying speed record with lap time of 29.406 seconds and a speed of 183.636 miles per hour (295.533 km/h).[33] Though he started on the pole, he lost the lead to Carl Edwards early. However, while Earnhardt Jr. was leading after the restart from a competition caution (due to a rain delay), Denny Hamlin cut a tire and the carcass came up the track and was struck by Earnhardt Jr.'s splitter and also by Jimmie Johnson's car, causing significant damage. Earnhardt Jr. had to make several charges through the field to salvage a 12th-place finish. He then took an 8th-place finish at the Coke Zero 400. He, Johnson, and Ryan Newman were the only three drivers to sweep the Top 10 in both Daytona races.

Earnhardt Jr. then battled a struggling car at New Hampshire, where he finished 14th. After the final off week, he found some consistency with finishes of 6th at Indianapolis and 5th at Pocono, while battling loose wheels and vibrations in a span of two weeks.

The #88 team then had two bad weeks, with a 30th-place finish at Watkins Glen due to a late race crash with Kasey Kahne. The next week, Earnhardt Jr. blew a right front tire while running in the Top 10. The damage was enough that he finished 26 laps down, in 36th place. This evaporated his Chase cushion, but with finishes of 10th at Bristol and 8th at Atlanta, he was able to rebuild this cushion. At Richmond, the last race of the regular season, Earnhardt Jr. only needed to finish 32nd or better to make the Chase. A 13th-place finish did this, and he entered the Chase seeded in ninth place. This was the first time in Earnhardt, Jr's career that he had made three straight Chase appearances. In the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. suffered an engine failure, placing him last in Chase competition. He bounced back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading 17 laps and finishing 6th. The result was good enough to move Earnhardt Jr. up to 11th in Chase for the Sprint Cup standings with eight races left in the season.

At Dover, Earnhardt Jr. won his second pole of the season, setting a new qualifying speed record of 161.849 mph. This was the first time since 2002 that he had recorded more than one pole during a season. During the race, Earnhardt Jr. would lead 80 laps, but would finish 2nd to Jimmie Johnson. The following week at Kansas, he finished 8th. Making his 500th Cup start at Charlotte, Earnhardt Jr. led 19 laps early, but finished 15th while battling a tight race car. The following week at Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. led 38 laps and was about to receive a push from Austin Dillon to overtake Jamie McMurray on the last lap when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tapped Dillon, causing that driver to spin out and then get hit by Casey Mears, leaving Earnhardt Jr. with a 2nd-place finish. The following week at Martinville, Earnhardt Jr. earned an 8th place finish. The next week at Texas, he had a solid night, finishing 2nd to Johnson for the third time in the season (after Daytona and Dover). The next week at Phoenix, Earnhardt Jr. started by being forced to pit with a loose wheel early, putting him a lap down. However, a caution allowed him to use the free pass to get back on the lead lap and salvage a 4th-place finish.

At the season finale, the last 67 laps saw a tight battle for the lead between Earnhardt Jr.; Matt Kenseth; and Denny Hamlin. Hamlin won while Earnhardt Jr. finished 3rd, giving him his first Top 5 at Homestead. He finished off the season 5th in the points, with two pole positions, ten Top 5's, and a career-high 22 Top 10 finishes.[34]

On December 5, 2013, it was announced that Earnhardt had won the Most Popular Driver Award for the 11th consecutive time, thus breaking Bill Elliott's record.

2014[edit]

The #88 team made headlines even before the start of the season. During the regular Daytona Winter test in January, it was announced that crew chief Steve Letarte would step down from the pit box after the season to become a full-time member of the upcoming NASCAR on NBC broadcast team, alongside Jeff Burton and Rick Allen. Earnhardt Jr. and Letarte reassured that this move would not interfere from them winning races and competing for the championship at season's end. In the Sprint Unlimited, Earnhardt Jr. led for 7 laps, but in the last segment, contact with Marcos Ambrose caused him to hit the wall in turn 1, finishing 9th. In the first Budweiser Duel, Earnhardt Jr. started 4th, and led 14 laps, before fading back to finish where he started.

In the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr. started 9th. His car hung around mid-pack for most of the first quarter of the race. After a six-hour and 22-minute red flag, Earnhardt Jr.'s car came alive, taking the lead with 70 laps remaining. He led 54 of the last 70 laps and he held off Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski to win his second Daytona 500, just 10 years after his first one.[35] The following week at Phoenix, Earnhardt Jr. continued his momentum, finishing 2nd to Kevin Harvick. At Las Vegas, Earnhardt Jr. gambled on fuel in the remaining 40 laps, but he ran out of gas while leading on the last lap, finishing 2nd to eventual race winner Brad Keselowski. At Bristol, he was strong early, and had a chance to become the first driver since Richard Petty to start a season with four straight Top 2 finishes, until tire problems forced him to make an unscheduled stop, leaving him to finish 24th, four laps down.

At Auto Club Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. started 15th. However, on lap 44, his car lost a right front tire and hit the outside wall in turn 2, bringing out a caution, making him one of several victims of tire failures that plagued the race. After being repaired and falling to the back of the lead lap, Earnhardt Jr. made several charges through the field to salvage a 12th-place finish, keeping him at 2nd place in the points. The following week at Martinsville, Earnhardt battled inside the Top 5 all day, leading 25 laps, and finished 3rd, giving him his 4th Top 3 finish of the season, and regained the points lead. At Texas, he crashed on Lap 13 and caught on fire. He finished last and fell 5 positions in points and dropped to 31 points behind new points leader Jeff Gordon. The following week at Darlington, Earnhardt Jr. raced among the Top 5 all night, and was leading on a green-white-checkered finish, before finishing 2nd to Kevin Harvick.

At Richmond, after the Easter off week, Earnhardt Jr. was strong in the race, racing among the Top 3 late, and led 7 laps, but a green-white-checkered, and bad brakes forced Earnhardt to a 7th-place finish. The following week at Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. raced among the pack until the middle of the race, when he took the lead. He led for 26 laps, but the last 30 laps saw the car take a conservative pace, and was never able to regain any track position, and finished 26th. At Kansas, for the first night race at the track, Earnhardt ran solidly in the Top 5, even leading a few laps, before finishing 5th.

For the Sprint All-Star Race, Earnhardt started 6th, but battled a tight car all night, and was never a real contender. Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line 4th. The following week at the Coca-Cola 600, he raced inside the Top 5 for most of the night, before making an unscheduled pit stop for an engine vibration. This resulted into a 19th-place finish, only two laps down. The following week at Dover, Earnhardt Jr. raced inside the Top 10 all day, and was running in the Top 5 late, but a mistake on pit road left them with a 9th-place finish.

At Pocono, Earnhardt Jr. started eighth and stayed inside the Top 10 most of the afternoon. On the last restart, he was behind Brad Keselowski. In a reversal of the events at Las Vegas, with 5 laps to go, Keselowski tried to move behind the lap down car of Danica Patrick to get a piece of trash on his grille, which caused Earnhardt Jr. to slip by and never look back en route to his first victory at Pocono and second of the season. The win marked the first time since 2004 that he had won multiple races in a season. The next week at Michigan, Earnhardt started inside the Top 5, but finished 7th, after several cars had different pit strategies. The next week at Sonoma, saw Earnhardt have his statistical best road course finish, staying in the top ten for most of the race, and finished 3rd. The following week at Kentucky, Earnhardt finished 5th.

Returning to Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. was involved in an early 16-car pileup on the front straightaway on lap 20, but was able to salvage a 14th-place finish by the time the race was called for rain on lap 114.

Earnhardt Jr. was able to bounce back the following week at New Hampshire with a 10th-place finish. With the finish, he clinched a Chase berth, with him being enough inside the Top 30 and having two victories. The following week, he finished 9th at Indianapolis.

The questions referring to the replacement of Steve Letarte were finally answered on July 30, for it was announced that Greg Ives, Chase Elliott's Nationwide Series crew chief at JR Motorsports, would return to Hendrick Motorsports, and take over Earnhardt Jr.'s pit box for 2015.

Returning to Pocono, Earnhardt Jr. started 9th. He ran inside the Top 10 for most of the race, and took the lead from Greg Biffle with 14 laps to go. Earnhardt Jr. had built up a lead in excess of three seconds when the caution came out for Kurt Busch's cut tire on lap 154, erasing his lead. He then sweated out a four lap shootout on the last restart to take his 3rd win of the year, marking the first time since 2006 that a driver swept both Pocono races (Denny Hamlin was the last driver). This win tied Earnhardt Jr. with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski for most wins of the season up to that point.

At Watkins Glen, Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th, and due to Jeff Gordon struggling, assumed the points lead, for the first time since Martinsville in April. The following week at Michigan, he made contact with Kyle Larson on pit road, but through hard work from his pit crew, was able to lead four laps and salvage a 5th-place finish.

The following week at Bristol, while running 5th, leader Denny Hamlin was wrecked by Kevin Harvick while racing for the lead, which then sent Hamlin's car into the inside wall. Hamlin's car then slid right back up in front of the #88 and slammed into the left-side door of the car, and the contact was bad enough to send Earnhardt Jr. behind the wall, and suffer a 39th-place finish. This was his second DNF of the year, after the early exit in the spring Texas race.

In the final race of NASCAR's regular season at Richmond, Earnhardt Jr. made his first debut with a Nationwide-sponsored #88. He raced to a 12th-place finish, after what was a long, difficult night for the team. Despite struggling at the 3/4-mile track, Earnhardt Jr. seeded third in the Chase grid, behind series leader Brad Keselowski, and tied with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Joey Logano for 2nd place. He started the Challenger Round of the Chase with an 11th-place finish in Chicago. The following week at New Hampshire, Earnhardt Jr. finished a solid 9th-place finish, giving him a comfortable advantage to make the Contender Round after Dover. At Dover, he finished 17th to make it to the next round.

At Kansas, after a 5th-place run in the spring, Earnhardt Jr. was looking to repeat this feat to start off the contender with a solid finish to help his chances to extend his run for the championship. After leading 45 laps in the same car he used to win both Pocono races earlier in the season, a cut right front tire resulted in a 39th-place finish. That finish caused him to fall to 11th place in points, 25 points behind 8th place. He came to Charlotte needing a win or a good finish. He led early but around lap 133, his shifter broke due to a vibration (a similar problem had befallen Jimmie Johnson at Michigan in August). He had to make multiple pit stops to fix the problem and never recovered, ending up 20th. He fell to last in the Chase standings, 26 points behind 8th.

At Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. started 28th and led for 31 laps. However, a crash on the back straightaway when he was turned by Greg Biffle ended his title contention chances and left him with a 31st-place finish.

Despite being knocked out of the Chase, Earnhardt Jr. continued to be consistent. At Martinsville, he led 79 laps and was leading with ten laps to go when a caution came out for a wreck between Kyle Larson and Marcos Ambrose. On the resulting restart, Earnhardt Jr. was running 5th. During the restart, he slipped through the pack and overtook Tony Stewart for the lead in turn 4. He continued to hold the lead to win the race ahead of Jeff Gordon. It was Earnhardt Jr.'s first career win at Martinsville.

Returning to Texas, Earnhardt Jr. had a rather average run, starting 12th and finishing 6th. At Phoenix, he had a solid day and got another Top 10, finishing 8th. At Homestead, Earnhardt, Jr had a tire problem early. He got the free pass and managed to crack the Top 5 at one point but fell back late to finish 14th. He finished 8th in the final standings with what was the best season for Earnhardt, Jr since 2004 with 4 wins, twelve Top 5's, twenty Top 10's, and an average finish of 12.2. For the 12th straight year, Earnhardt Jr. won the NMPA Most Popular Driver Award.

2015[edit]

JR Motorsports made headlines even before the start of the season.

Greg Ives (Chase Elliott's crew chief in 2014) will be not involved with JR Motorsports to be Dale Jr's crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports

In December it was announced that Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne to move from JR Motorsports #5 to # 88 with Dale Jr, Kahne will also race an additional race in the #5. later that month Ben Rhodes also confirmed to drive the #88 for JR Motorsports.

On January 12, 2015, it was announced that Haas Racing Development driver Cole Custer would drive a truck for JR Motorsports in 10 races in 2015, marking Dale Jr's first foray into the Camping World Truck Series as an owner. The team will operate out of a satellite facility in Mooresville, North Carolina. In the Sprint Unlimited, Jr. finished 9th. On February 19, Dale Jr. won Budweiser Duel #1. In the Daytona 500 Jr. Led for over 30 laps, but on one of the last restarts of the race he made a move which mired him in the middle with no help, and fell back to 16th with 15 laps to go through several green flag laps and a caution Power-housed to third in the running, but a last lap caution on the back stretch prevented him from gaining anymore ground. This was his 5th top 3 finish in 6 years in the Great American Race. At Atlanta, Earnhardt Jr. came home with another 3rd place finish. At Las Vegas, Earnhardt Jr. got his 3rd top five finish when he finished 4th after taking 2 tires on a green flag pit-stop with 30 laps to go. At Phoenix, he blew a tire and finished 43rd. At Fontana, Earnhardt ran inside the top ten for most of the day and finished 6th.

Business interests[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. owns Hammerhead Entertainment, a media production company that created and produces the TV show Back In the Day, which aired on SPEED. Hammerhead also produced "Shifting Gears", a show on ESPN2 that chronicled his 2008 team switch.

He is partners with a group of investors who are building Alabama Motorsports Park, a Dale Earnhardt Jr. Speedway.[36] The track is located near Mobile, Alabama and will feature stock car racing, kart racing and a road course. This will join with his partial ownership of Paducah International Raceway. Earnhardt has also opened a bar named Whisky River in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina in April 2008; he later opened a second Whisky River in Jacksonville, Florida.[37]

As of 2013, Earnhardt Jr. has his own signature line of eyeglass frames, partnering with NY Eye Inc.[38]

In August 2012, Earnhardt Jr. entered the automobile dealer business, opening Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Tallahassee, Florida in association with car owner Rick Hendrick.[39]

In popular media[edit]

A Dale Earnhardt Jr. autograph

Films[edit]

He was featured in the video Playboy: Celebrity Photographers (2003) where he photographed The Dahm Triplets.[40] He appeared in the 2006 film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. In the movie, he is seen asking Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) for his autograph, and tells Ricky "don't tell any of the other drivers." There is also a deleted scene on the DVD where he calls Ricky a "dirty liar" and asks him for money he owed him. The No. 8 car also appeared in Herbie: Fully Loaded in the final race where Herbie overtook him. His No. 88 car also appeared in the 2011 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon as Roadbuster of the Wreckers, a trio of NASCAR stock cars equipped with armor on the front that can transform into heavy artillery tanks (the other Wreckers were based on the No. 42 and No. 48 cars driven respectively by Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmie Johnson).[41] The Wrecker versions of these cars circled the track during the opening pace laps of the 2011 Daytona 500 (Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Michael Bay were also the grand marshals for that race, in which Earnhardt crashed on lap 203 after making contact with Ryan Newman).

Television[edit]

He hosted Back in the Day a show that took a step back in time to races in the '60s and '70s with trivia and information. The show debuted on the Speed Channel on February 6, 2007. He has also appeared in an episode of the TV show Yes, Dear. He has also been on two episodes of MTV Cribs. The first episode originally aired in 2001. The second episode featuring the Western town Dale Jr. built originally aired in 2009. His production company Hammerhead Entertainment also assisted in creating a DirecTV special called "Fast Lane For Fun", in which Earnhardt Jr.'s Whisky River was shown in one episode. He appeared in an episode of Shaq Vs., where he was racing against Shaquille O'Neal.

Voice acting[edit]

  • He voiced himself in Disney/Pixar's movie Cars as a No. 8 car (painted in resemblance to Earnhardt's actual car) named "Junior" with the DEI logo on the hood.[43] The Budweiser logos were censored from the No. 8 to prevent alcoholic advertising to gain a "G" (General) rating.[citation needed]
  • His voice was used for the character Chase Davis in an episode of the Disney Channel's Handy Manny. Chase helps Manny compete in the Wood Valley 500 auto race in "Handy Manny's Big Race".[44]

Music[edit]

The band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is named after Earnhardt Jr.[45]

Music video appearances[edit]

He has made appearances in several music videos, including:

Radio[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. hosted a show on Sirius XM Radio's Sirius XM Sports Nation called Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Unrestricted.[51]

Beginning the 2013 season, Dale Jr.'s Hammerhead Entertainment began producing Dirty Mo Radio, a weekly podcast recapping Dale Jr.'s race weekend. It is hosted by Taylor Zarzour and Mike Davis.[52]

Video games[edit]

Dale Jr. appeared on the cover of EA Sports' NASCAR Thunder 2003. He appeared in the EA Sports video game, NASCAR Rumble in the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc./Dale Jr. Chevrolet as a guest driver, while his father of course, appeared in his No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet as a full-time driver. Dale Jr. also was voted to be on the cover of NASCAR The Game: Inside Line in 2012, making a 2nd appearance on a NASCAR game cover.

Personal life[edit]

Earnhardt Jr. is a passionate Washington Redskins fan and has been known to have Redskins scores relayed to him during races.[53][54] "During the race season, [if] I'm under caution, I'm getting stats and numbers told to me over the radio during the race," Earnhardt said. "I've got to know. I can't concentrate on what I'm doing if I don't know what the Redskins are doing. My fans tell me if I lose, it ruins their week. But if the Redskins lose, it ruins my week." Earnhardt once dreamed of playing football for the Redskins, but states that he "wasn't built" for it. "I was 5–3 when I got my driver's license at the age of 16," he said, "so I wasn't going to make much of a football player."[54] He currently owns a Learjet 60 private jet with the tail number N8JR.[55]

Earnhardt Jr. also owns a graveyard of wrecked race cars on a property in North Carolina.[56] Some of the most notable cars include Juan Pablo Montoya's 2012 Daytona 500 car that collided with the jet dryer, David Gilliland's 2014 5-hour Energy 400 car that was destroyed in a violent impact with the tri-oval wall, and Earnhardt Jr.'s own 2014 Duck Commander 500 car that was wrecked from incidental contact with wet infield grass on lap 12 that cut a tire.

Motorsports career results[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)

Sprint Cup Series[edit]

Daytona 500 results[edit]
Year Team Manufacturer Start Finish
2000 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet 8 13
2001 6 2
2002 5 29
2003 2 36
2004 3 1
2005 5 3
2006 7 8
2007 5 32
2008 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 3 9
2009 14 27
2010 2 2
2011 1 24
2012 5 2
2013 18 2
2014 9 1
2015 3 3

Xfinity Series[edit]

* Season in progress
1 Ineligible for series points

International Race of Champions[edit]

(key) (Bold – Pole position. * – Most laps led.)

24 Hours of Daytona[edit]

(key)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Seelman, Jacob (February 24, 2014). "NASCAR Sprint Cup: Sunday is Dale’s Day as Earnhardt Jr. Wins Second Daytona 500". Race Chaser Online. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ "DALE JR. WINS SPRINT NMPA MOST POPULAR DRIVER AWARD". NASCAR. December 5, 2014. Retrieved December 5, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Ancestry of Dale Earnhardt Jr.". 
  4. ^ Greg Roza, Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nascar Driver, 2006, page 9
  5. ^ James MacDonald, Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Racing's Living Legacy, 2008, pages 34-35
  6. ^ a b "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Drive Bio on Nascar.com". Nascar.com. February 20, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  7. ^ Kerry Earnhardt website
  8. ^ "NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings 2001". NASCAR.com. Retrieved September 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ Associated Press (October 6, 2004). "Post-Talladega expletive costs Earnhardt". ESPN. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  10. ^ Fox Sports on MSN – NASCAR – Dale Jr. camo car, other schemes honor troops
  11. ^ "Mears stretches fuel to win Coca-Cola 600, first Cup race"
  12. ^ ESPN – Kurt Busch makes statement with dominating win at Pocono – Nascar
  13. ^ Mike Irwin (November 29, 2007). "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins Fifth Consecutive NASCAR NMPA Chex® Most Popular Driver Award". Motor Sports News. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Dale Earnhardt Jr., the Gravest Loss in the History of NASCAR?"
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External links[edit]


Sporting positions
Preceded by
Randy LaJoie
NASCAR Busch Series Champion
1998–1999
Succeeded by
Jeff Green
Preceded by
Terry Labonte
The Winston winner
2000
Succeeded by
Jeff Gordon
Preceded by
Tony Stewart
Budweiser Shootout winner
2003
2008
Succeeded by
Dale Jarrett
Kevin Harvick
Preceded by
Michael Waltrip
Jimmie Johnson
Daytona 500 winner
2004
2014
Succeeded by
Jeff Gordon
Joey Logano
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Bill Elliott
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver
2003–2014
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Preceded by
Jeff Gordon
NASCAR EA cover athlete
2003
Succeeded by
Tony Stewart
Preceded by
Jimmie Johnson Mark Martin
NASCAR The Game cover athlete
2012
Succeeded by
Tony Stewart
Preceded by
Tony Stewart
NASCAR Myers Brothers Award
2014
Succeeded by
Incumbent