This is my first article for Border Fuel, and I’ve been trying to think of a topic that would set the world on fire. Finally, I decided that only you can decide what you like. Not me. So, I thought I should choose something important to me and introduce myself. I came up with Dale Jr.
I know you are thinking, WHY? Well see, he’s always been in my life. My dad loved and respected Dale Sr. My dad’s birthday was April 23rd, 1951, and Dale Sr.’s birthday was April 29th, 1951. I’m pretty sure that my dad saw a lot of himself in Dale Sr. because I sure did. Every Sunday, there was a Nascar race on our TV.
I couldn’t help, but notice two kids around Dale Sr. as I was growing up. His first daughter was Kelley (born in 1972) and his second son was Dale Jr. (born in 1974.) I was born in between both in late 1973. So, they were doing some of the things I was like wearing a baseball hat backward. They started out living with their mom, Brenda Jackson until their house was destroyed in a fire when he was six years old. Their mom had no financial support after the fire, so she had to give up custody of the two children to Dale Sr.
I was always asking my dad if Dale Jr. and Kelley were there at the race. Later, I learned why Dale Jr. wasn’t much in my middle school years and most of my high school years. Dale Sr. had divorced their mom and Kelley took care of Dale Jr. a lot then. She took it extremely seriously, even so far that when Dale Jr. was sent to military school for his behavior and delinquency, then became homesick. Kelley left her friends to join him because she didn’t want him to be alone. His senior year, he was allowed to attend regular high school.
Everyone knows all about Dale Jr.’s racing career. He started in 1996 in Myrtle Beach, SC at the age of 24 years old. But did you know he actually started racing Street Stock cars at 19 years old? He shared a car with his older half-brother, Kerry. Did you know he was also a car mechanic at his dad’s dealership? Did you know he went to Mitchell Community College for automotive technology and graduated with an associate degree?
I think some fans thought Dale Jr. was a young redneck kid living on his father’s name. It definitely started up when Dale Sr. offered Dale Jr. a ride in Japan for one race with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 1998. Then, he raced five races for them in the #8. Then, he received a full-time ride from his dad in 2000 when Dale Jr. was 26 years old.
At the same time, I had been an assistant coach on a high school boys’ basketball team that won the State Championship in 1996-1997 and was starting my first career. I was so excited; I was back watching Nascar, rooting against Dale Sr. and my dad, of course. Dale Jr. in my mind just had to beat his dad. He won his first race in his 12th start beating his dad’s record.
However, Dale Jr. wouldn’t have much time left to try to beat his dad. I’m sure most of you remember Dale Sr.’s horrific crash that took his life on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 while blocking for the two cars he owned. One of which was Dale Jr. After the crash, Dale Jr. didn’t want to talk a lot about it, and he spent a lot of helping his mom with Kelley. Most fans couldn’t believe that it happened so fast when he had so much left to give his kids and racing.
It was a split-second thing; I felt so sorry for all of his kids, but Dale Jr. especially, since he seemed so determined to race better now. I could never imagine what he was thinking or going through at that time. Unfortunately, I found out six years later when my dad died suddenly of a stomach aneurysm that he couldn’t be saved from. I tried to help my mom and sister, but I think I was so angry, confused, and frustrated that it didn’t help them much.
Dale Jr. continued racing the following weekend, however, he wrecked on the first lap. The wreck looked eerily similar to his dad’s the week before. Dale Jr. won the next race at Daytona to prove to himself he was ok. He would win 24 more races in his career and win the Most Popular Driver of the Year 15 straight years from 2003-2017. However, he never won the Cup Series Championship which his dad had seven times.
Dale Jr. became a semi-retired professional stock car racing driver, team owner, author, and analyst for NASCAR on NBC. Some of you may have just said, “Say what?!?! When?” See, Dale Jr. knew racing wasn’t forever. He semi-retired in 2018, plus he knew how many different interests he had to explore.
Dale Jr. wanted to become a race team owner. So he with his other co-owners Kelley Earnhardt Miller (his sister), and Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick created JR Motorsports in 2002. They started with street stock cars and continued to grow. They have an Xfinity team, which is one level below Cup Series. JR Motorsports has three championships (2014, 2017, and 2018) to its credit and more than 50 series victories. It is where Dale Jr. continues to race one race a year. Last year, it was at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he finished fifth.
For some reason, many thought he might not race this year. Dale Jr. said he didn’t want to release anything about it until everything was put together. All he had said was back in October. “It’s somewhere that I’ve raced before in the last couple of years,” Dale Jr. said. “I’m sure some of you guys can kind of guess where it might be.”
Well, Dale Jr. announced it the first week of May. He confirmed that he is set to drive the #8 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 11. He will run with a special 9/11 tribute paint scheme from Unilever. According to JR Motorsports, “the No. 8’s blue-and-white paint scheme will feature four spotlights representing the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the Flight 93 Memorial site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania with the axiom “Never Forget” on the lower rear quarter panel, paying tribute to the brave souls lost during the terror attacks.”
Dale Jr. owns Hammerhead Entertainment, a media production company that created and produced the TV show Back in the Day. In 2013, he entered into having his own signature line of eyeglass frames. In August 2012, he entered the automobile dealer business. He opened Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Tallahassee, Florida in association with the car owner, Rick Hendrick.
Dale Jr. also co-owns the Whiskey River Beer and Wings restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina, and at the Charlotte Airport and Raleigh Airport. This is named after the party room that he had in his wild bachelor days then he built a town on his property. It has a saloon where his buddies can get together to drink. Dale Jr. is also the co-owner of FilterTime, alongside former NASCAR driver Blake Koch.
I’m just as excited as you about Dale Jr. returning to racing, even if for just one race. It is a special race for him and all of America because it is the 20th anniversary of a horrific event…September 11th. He is showing his support with a special car for a special fund for the victims’ families. I can’t wait to see it, but I wanted you to know what he started doing as a driver and continues to do as a semi-retired racer.
Where do you think Dale Jr. will finish in the race? What do you think he should get into next? Give the answers below in the comments section. You can reach me @Sam4413 on Twitter about this article. I’ll talk to you soon and see you down the road.