Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
First Win: 4-2-2002
Commonly referred to as “the most popular driver in NASCAR” Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a huge fan following. Jr. is the son of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt and grew up around race cars.
Dale Jr. grew up in North Carolina and got involved in racing as a teenager. Dale quickly advanced to the Busch Series and won 2 NASCAR Busch Series Championships in 1998 and 1999. In 2000 Jr. drove for his father’s team Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) at the Cup level. Once again Jr. found success at the Cup level. Jr. has won races at some of NASCAR’s most popular tracks like Daytona and Talladega.
In the 2001 Daytona 500 Dale Earnhardt Sr. died from a crash on the last lap of the race. Even with the death of his father, Dale Jr. was starting to hit his stride in NASCAR and finished the 2003 season at #3 in the final Cup standings.
After Dale Sr.’s death, things at DEI steadily took a turn for the worse. Following the 2007 season Jr. left DEI to drive for NASCAR’s most successful team, Hendrick Motorsports. The 2009 season failed to produce the results that many had expected. After struggling through the first part of the season, Jr.’s crew chief and cousin, Tony Eury Jr. was replaced.
Of all of the drivers in NASCAR, perhaps nobody has higher expectations placed upon them than Dale Earnhart Jr. The son of a NASCAR legend has found himself as the face of NASCAR.