Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got into NASCAR through his legendary father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. But he hasn’t hid in his father’s shadow. Since breaking into the scene in 1998, Earnhardt has been NASCAR’s favorite son and his 12 Most Popular Player awards are second in sport history.
Despite hitting a few rough patches in his career, Earnhardt ended last year on a high and is looking to build on it this season.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. Earnhardt Drives the No. 88 Car
Earnhardt drives the No. 88 car, sponsored by the National Guard and Diet Mountain Dew, for Hendrick Motorsports.
Starting his 17th season, he’s won 23 races, has 223 Top Tens and 13 poles in 538 races.
Last season, he earned $25.9 million, with $14.9 million coming from salary and $11 million from endorsements, according to Forbes.
His pit crew features names like David Mayo, Dustin Lineback and Joe Slingerland, with Greg Ives as the crew chief, according to Hendrick Motorsports.
2. Earnhardt is a Third Generation Racer
Everyone knows who Dale Earnhardt, Sr., is, but he wasn’t the one that started the family’s involvement in the sport. Jr.’s grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, was also a driver. Ralph began racing in 1949 and made it his full-tim occupation in 1953, according to the Free-Lance Star. He died in 1973 of a heart attack.
Jr.’s Hall of Fame father is one of the most known drivers in sport history. “The Intimidator” put together a career and image unlike any other. He has been immortalized all throughout the sport, including a statue outside of the Daytona International Raceway, which was the location of his tragic death in an accident on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Shortly before his death, the raceway named a section of seating “Earnhardt Tower” in his honor.
3. Earnhardt Began Racing in 1998
Earnhardt competed in nine Busch Series races between 1996 and 1997, but began racing full time in 1998. His first race, the 1998 Daytona 500, was his father’s first and only Dayton 500 win.
Two years later, in 2000, Earnhardt had a breakout season, win his 12th start and breaking the record held by his father for the first win in the fewest starts. That season, he was also the first rookie to win the All-Star exhibition race.
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, Earnhardt’s best finish has been 3rd, which came in 2008. He’s had 23 wins, 223 top tens and 13 poles in 538 races.
4. Earnhardt and His Cars Have Been Featured in Movies
Earnhardt appeared as himself in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and in the show Yes, Dear. His car has been featured in movies like Herbie: Fully Loaded, Cars and Transformers: Dark of the Moon
5. Earnhardt Shot Down Recent Proposal Speculations on ‘The Dan Patrick Show’
I have a phobia that nobody knows about. I have a jewelry phobia. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s been the biggest holdup for me getting engaged or getting married.
When Patrick pressed for more details on the proposal possibility, Earnhardt said he wasn’t going to ruin any surprises on the show.
[We’re] not [engaged] yet. Me and Amy are doing great, though, and we’re heading in the right direction. … If I want to get engaged, I don’t want to spoil the surprise on Dan Patrick’s radio show. … It’s not the time. The timing’s not right.