From the day he was born, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed destined to become a prominent stock car racer. His father, Dale Sr., is considered one of the greatest drivers of all time. His Grandfather and Half-Brother were stock car drivers as well.
Dale Jr. has been no slouch in his own career, winning the Daytona 500 on two separate occasions. He's also made his mark in other ways, by owning his own race team and not being afraid to speak his mind about the things he is passionate about.
A Family Tradition
It isn't all that hard to figure out that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the son of legendary NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt. His father was a racing legend at the time of death in 2001 but wasn't the only family member involved in stock car racing.
Dale Jr.'s Grandfather was also a racer who participated in NASCAR during the 1950s and 1960s. Earnhardt Jr.'s brother, Kerry was also a driver on the circuit. His sister, Kelley co-owns JR Motorsports alongside her brother.
The Young Troublemaker
Dale Jr. gave both his Father and his Mother, Brenda, a heck of a time while growing up. He often acted out in school and was was nearly expelled from a Christian school at age 12. His Father decided a stint in military school would shape him up.
Earnhardt Jr. said of the experience, "It was sorta a last ditch effort for me to figure it out. And it did, it worked. I'm sure it’s not for everybody. But, it taught me a lot."
The Move To Hendrick Motorsports
Dale Jr. was always going to be compared to his famous Father. And while he wanted to honor the memory of Dale Sr., he also wanted to create his own legacy. While he started his racing career with Dale Earnhardt Inc, he later moved to Hendrick Motorsports.
He claimed that the time that the move had nothing to do with hard feelings. Earnhardt Jr. claimed that Hendrick gave him the best chance of achieving his goal of winning the Sprint Cup. His new team also featured Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears.
A Scary Situation
Due to his hectic schedule Earnhardt Jr. and his family often fly via private plane. The family encountered a scary moment in August this year when their private plane skidded off a runway and caught on fire.
Dale Jr. was joined on the plane by his wife Amy and his 1 year-old daughter, Isla Rose. The Earnhardt family was lucky though as no one was badly injured in the crash. Dale Jr. was taken to the hospital where he was treated for minor cuts and burns.
Exhibition Comes East To Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Jr. has certainly had an impressive career with a total of 26 Sprint Race wins. He is also a frequent participant in exhibition races. And for whatever reason, he seems to bring his A-game when these events come around.
Earnhardt Jr. has won a total of nine major exhibitions. This includes winning the Budweiser Duels a total of five times as well as the Budweiser Shootout twice and the Sprint All-Star Race and the Sprint Showdown once.
Earnhardt's Statement On The Accident
After surviving the plane crash with minimal injuries, Dale Earnhardt Jr. released this statement, "Amy and I want to thank everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages and prayer since last Thursday. We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus."
Prior to the accident, Earnhardt was set to announce a race for NASCAR in Bristol, Tennessee. After being released from the hospital, however, he took the event off to remain with his family.
A Master Of The Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 will always be a significant and emotional race for Earnhardt Jr. One reason is that his father died on the track during the 2001 running of the race. The other reason is that Dale Jr. has been very successful there winning two Daytona 500's during his career.
Earnhardt Jr. took home his second Daytona during the 2014 running of the race. While he started the race at 9 and ran most of it in the middle, he came alive at the end and was able to overtake Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin for the win.
Missing Time Due To Injury
Stock car racing can be incredibly dangerous with drivers crashing into walls and other cars at high speed. NASCAR, like every other major sport, has become much more cognizant of the potential impact concussions can have.
Earnhardt Jr. first missed time due to a concussion back in 2012. In July of 2016, he was again diagnosed with concussion symptoms. He was replaced for the second half of the season by Alex Bowman and NASCAR legend, Jeff Gordon.
Son Of A Legend
Dale Jr. was one of 4 children born to Dale Earnhardt Sr. In addition to his sister, Kelley King Earnhardt Miller, he also had a half sister named Taylor and a half brother named Kerry. Kerry, Kelley and Dale Jr. are all involved in stock car racing. His half sister Taylor is a professional bull rider.
Dale Sr. was, of course, a legendary racer. The "Eliminator" won the Winston Cup a startling seven times. He also won the Daytona 500 in 1998. While his Father cast a larges shadow, Dale Jr. has done many things to make his old man proud.
Driver In Training
Dale Jr. and his brother, Kerry (5 years older) were always destined to have careers in stock car racing. In fact, the brothers shared the same racecar, a 1978 Chevy Monte Carlo, when Dale Jr. first began racing professionally at the age of 17.
When he turned 18, Earnhardt Jr. began his professional training with former driver Andy Hillenburg. His trainer saw that his pupil shared the same traits as his Father and Grandfather. Hillenburg encouraged Dale Jr. to bring that aggression to the track.
The End Of The Line
Dale Earnhardt Jr. began racing cars professionally at the age of 17. He won the Busch series twice and made his first race for the Winston Cup in 1998. He then raced in the Winston/Sprint series for nearly 20 years.
The driver had the second serious concussion of his career during the 2016 season. He decided to come back for one more year and competed for the Cup in 2017. After that year, though, he decided that is was time to stop racing professionally full-time.
The First Winston Cup Race
Earnhardt Jr. was clearly seen as an up and coming driver while racing in the Busch Series. He was the champion of the Busch Series, sort of a minor league for NASCAR, in both 1998 and 1999.
This success allowed him to compete in his first Winston Cup race, the Coca-Cola 600 in 1998. He had an impressive showing in the race finishing in 16th place. His Father also ran in the same race and finished 6th overall.
While Dale Jr. was a very successful driver over the course of his career, he wasn't necessarily the most successful driver. That crown would probably go to Jimmie Johnson, who has won a total of seven Cup championships over the course of his career.
One thing Earnhardt Jr. certainly was, though, was incredibly popular. He was named NASCAR's most popular driver for the 15th consecutive year in 2017. That is second only to Bill Elliot who was named the most popular driver 16 times.
The First Winston Cup Series Win
The 2000 DirecTV 500 was special for more than one NASCAR legacy driver. Adam Petty, just 19-years-old, qualified for the race and became the first fourth-generation athlete in the history of professional sports.
The race was also notable for Dale Jr. who won in just the 12th start of his professional career. The win set the record for the fewest ever starts before the first victory in NASCAR history. Interestingly, he broke Dale Sr.'s record of 16 starts before his first victory.
The First Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had won the Gatorade 125 prior to the race. This turned out to be fortuitous for him as engine problems caused pole-sitter Greg Biffle to move to the back of the pack. Thanks to the Gatorade win, Dale Jr. now began the race in the number one starting spot.
He took advantage of starting at the front by leading for the early portion of the race. In the middle portion, Jeff Gordon took the lead and was eventually caught by rookie Scott Wimmer. Near the end, Earnhardt Jr. was able to catch and pass Wimmer and won his first-ever Daytona.
Junior Ties The Knot
For the majority of his stock car career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not married. This did not necessarily mean he was single though, as he had a long term girlfriend in Amy Reimann. Earnhardt Jr. proposed to Reimann in 2015.
The couple made it official on New Year's Eve of 2015 leading into 2016. The wedding, which took place at Richard Childress' Vineyards in Lexington, North Carolina was attended by some of the biggest stars of NASCAR.
Still Has The Itch
2017 was the last season where Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran a full racing schedule. That does not mean, however, that he doesn't still get the itch to run a race from time to time.
In the Fall of 2018, Dale Jr. decided to run in the fall Xfinity race at Richmond. He had a very strong start to the race after he qualified for the number 2 starting position. He dominated much of the time and led 96 of 250 laps. Earnhardt Jr. ended up finishing fourth.
The Next Logical Step
When Dale Jr.'s career began to wind down he looked for other ways to continue to be involved in the sport. The most obvious way was to take on an ownership stake in JR Motorsports, the company his father had helped to build.
Junior owns the company along with his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller and legendary NASCAR owner, Rick Hendrick. The ownership group has been quite successful and has recently expanded into Truck Series vehicles as well.
A Bundle Of Joy
Dale Jr. married his long-time girlfriend, Amy Reimann on New Years Eve in 2015. The couple soon decided to expand their family and Amy announced that she was pregnant with the couples first child in October of 2017.
On May 2nd, 2018, Amy and Dale Jr. welcomed their first child, a girl named Isla Rose Earnhardt. Dale Jr. said of parenthood, "Every time I look at Amy and her together – when Amy's holding her or feeding her – I just can’t believe this is in my life."
Speaking His Mind
Drivers participating in NASCAR tend to stay relatively quiet when it comes to political issues. With so many fans being from the South, stock car racing fans tend to be Republicans rather than Democrats. '
Earnhardt Jr., however, has spoken out popular policies on a few different occasions. The driver has thrown his support behind immigrants noting that his family originally came to the US from Germany. Earnhardt Jr. also spoke out against the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Not A Fan
The Confederate battle flag is frequently seen at NASCAR events, especially in the South. Fans often say that both NASCAR and the flag reference the South's rebellious tradition. Earnhardt Jr., however, is not a fan.
When asked about his objection to the flag by supporters, he said, "I think it's offensive to an entire race. It does nothing for anybody to be there flying, so I don't see any reason. It belongs in the history books and that's about it.."