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
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Earnhardt 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
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
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
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
''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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Dale Jr declined to respond to the comments publicly,
but during Daytona's Speedweeks in February 2007 the
Dale Earnhardt Jr was demanding majority ownership in
DEI, and without 51% ownership he would take his driving
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.