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A Dale Earnhardt Jr Biography

Since his first NASCAR Busch race in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1996 Dale Earnhardt Jr has set NASCAR on fire. But, if you ask, he'll likely tell you there is much left to be done.

With 17 Victories on the premiere Nextel Cup circuit Junior ranks 23rd on the all-time win list for NASCAR's modern era. He's earned 7 poles along the way, and earned a total of $46 million in career winnings. That's just in the Cup series. Get Dale Jr updates when you subscribe to our newsletter.

Dale Earnhardt Jr biographyEarnhardt has amassed 22 Busch wins, along with 9 poles, and has earned $4 million in that series. And, oh, by the way, he has 2 Busch Championships.

That's if you don't bother to count his victories in NASCAR's All Star Races. Junior won the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona in 2003, and the Winston All Star Race in 2000.

Dale Jr has won at Daytona with a victory in the 2004 Daytona 500, and the 2001 Pepsi 400.

He's won at Talladega -- 5 times -- including 3 consecutive victories.

Now Earnhardt has his sights set on a Nextel Cup Championship. He's been a contender in the past, finishing 3rd in the final standings to Matt Kenseth in 2003. He qualified for the Chase For The Nextel Cup in 2004, and again in 2006.

At 17 years old Dale Jr began his racing career with a little help from his brother, Kerry. The 2 got their hands on an old 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo race car and entered it in the Street Stock division at Concord Motorsports Park near Charlotte with Dale Jr at the wheel.

They didn't exactly have the best equipment. Junior purchased that 1st car for $200, with he and Kerry, and a few friends, serving as mechanics and crew. Corporate sponsors and help from Dad's race team were still a long way off.

Still, Junior managed to earn 3 victories racing late models around North Carolina. But more importantly, he got an education on building a race car and dialing in a chassis set-up. Information that would prove invaluable in communicating with his crew chief when he moved first to Busch, and then to the Cup series.

When he turned 18 Dale Jr moved out of his Father's comfortable home in search of independence. He and older brother Kerry shared a double-wide trailer in Mooresville.

''They tried to put me in an adult situation. Kerry and I started splitting the bills and trying to get everything taken care of,'' Junior said. ''I was working changing oil in my dad's dealership.''

''They never gave us money for racing. If we were behind on the bills, they let us be behind until we caught up and learned what that feels like to go through struggling with credit and things like that,'' he said.

 Dale Earnhardt had been the long-time driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet owned by Richard Childress Racing when he started his own Busch team, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. His shop had fielded Busch entries for Neil Bonnett, Steve Park, Michael Waltrip, and occasionally The Intimidator himself.

That's when Earnhardt had asked his crew chief and long-time friend Tony Eury if he thought Dale Jr could make it in the Busch series.

"I remember Dale coming up to me and asking if I could make a driver out of Dale Jr.," Eury said. "My remark to him was I don't know why we can't. Why would you want to spend money on someone else's kid when you can spend money on your own kid?"

Earnhardt Jr competed in his 1st Busch race, without a sponsor, at Myrtle Beach Speedway on June 22, 1996. He finished 14th that 1st race, his only Busch start of the season. 2 years later he would be the Busch Champion.

In 1997 he competed in 8 Busch races, but only finished in 4 of them. He was sidelined by a crash at Gateway in July. Engine problems put him out in Nashville, and at the road course in Watkins Glen, and he was forced to park his car at Fontana, California due to handling problems.

In 1998 business started to pick up. Earnhardt was now a Busch regular, competing in all 31 events that year, thanks to a sponsorship from ACDelco. He got off to a rough start at Daytona, crashing after just 81 laps. But by April he would have his 1st win at Texas Motor Speedway.

Junior scored a total of 7 wins and 3 poles in the 1998 season, along with 16 top 5's, and 22 top 10's on the way to his 1st championship.

In 1999 he successfully defended his championship with 6 wins, 3 poles, 18 top 5's, and 22 top 10's.

1999 would also mark dale Earnhardt's Winston Cup debut. He competed in 5 races in preparation for a move to Cup full time in 2000.

The 2000 Cup season would bring Junior his first win in NASCAR's top division. On April 2, 2000 he won his 1st Cup race at the site of his 1st Busch victory, Texas Motor Speedway.

For 4 years straight, beginning in 2003, Dale Jr has won the Chex Most Popular Driver Award. This contest is the result of fans voting for their favorite driver, and Junior is clearly a fan favorite.

2003 would bring 3 more victories including Daytona's July 4th weekend Pepsi 400. He had 13 top 5's, and 21 top 10's, finishing 3rd in the final championship standings.

Dale Jr started 2004 out with a bang winning the season opening Daytona 500 in February. He was also victorious the next day in the Hershey's Kisses 300 Busch race that had been delayed due to rain on Saturday.

He made 6 visits to Victory Lane in 2004, along with 16 top 5's and 21 top 10's, but saw his championship chances slide near the end of the season. Junior wound up finishing 5th in the final standings.

With almost $9 million in earnings from the previous year Earnhardt was able to purchase a private jet just prior to the start of the 2005 season. His Learjet 60 is a top of the line executive jet.

In a 2005 shake-up at Dale Earnhardt, Inc, Dale Earnhardt Jr was left without Tony Eury Sr and Tony Eury Jr in his pits. Tony Eury Sr had been his crew from 1996 until 2003, with Tony Jr being the car chief and right hand man. In 2004 Eury Jr was promoted to the top spot of crew chief.

Despite the fact that the team had won 6 races in 2004 Eury Jr was replaced by DEI management with little-known Pete Rondeau.

Tony Eury Jr was now crew chief of the No.15 of Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr's teammate at DEI. To make matters worse Waltrip was given the cars that Dale Jr had been driving, and Junior got Waltrip's old cars.

The Rondeau and Earnhardt pairing never gelled, and by May Pete Rondeau was out and Steve Hmiel was in as Junior's crew chief. Hmiel was able to get Dale Earnhardt Jr his only win of the 2005 season at Chicagoland Speedway. The No. 8 team failed to make the Chase in 2005.

2006 brought a fresh start with Tony Eury Jr back as Dale Jr's crew chief, but it may have been too little, too late. Earnhardt Jr made the Chase For The Nextel Cup, but finished 5th in the final standings. He won only 1 race in 2006, scoring that victory at Richmond in May.

In December 2006 during the off-season tension between Dale Earnhardt Jr and his step-mother Teresa Earnhardt, President of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., finally reached the boiling point.

Teresa Earnhardt seemed to question Dale Earnhardt Jr's commitment to racing and the race team when she was quoted in a Wall Street Journal interview saying "Right now the ball's in his court to decide on whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality."

Dale Jr declined to respond to the comments publicly, but during Daytona's Speedweeks in February 2007 the bomb dropped.

Dale Earnhardt Jr was demanding majority ownership in DEI, and without 51% ownership he would take his driving services elsewhere.

The negotiations went on for months, but appeared to be heading nowhere. Then on May 10, 2007 Dale Earnhardt Jr held a press conference to announce that he was leaving DEI at the end of the 2007 season.

The move basically put Dale Jr on the open market for teams wanting his services.

After carefully considering all offers, and a firestorm of media and public speculation, Dale Jr announced on June 13, 2007 that he would drive for Rick Hendrick beginning in 2008.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
           
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