Behind the Wheel with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a third-generation driver in a family forever connected to the sport of stock-car racing , and while his innate ability behind the wheel comes from Earnhardt DNA, his competitive driving style and keen business sense are all his own. His flair for originality and common-sense charisma have helped propel him to become one of the most popular figures in sports. Race fans have selected him eight consecutive times as the winner of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver award, and he joins Bill Elliott as the only drivers to win it eight consecutive seasons since 1956. Earnhardt's appeal is not limited to NASCAR's loyal race fans, as he has appeared annually since 2004 on Harris Interactive's annual survey of America's Top 10 Favorite Athletes, frequenting the list with such names as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter.
The 2011 season marks Earnhardt's 12th in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Through 2010, the native of Kannapolis, N.C., has amassed 18 career victories including the 2004 Daytona 500. His 18 victories tie him for 38th on NASCAR's all-time race winners list. He also has six non-points wins (three in the Gatarade Duel, two in the Budweiser Shootout and one all-star victory) and nine pole positions. Earnhardt is the only third-generation NASCAR champion, achieved when he won the 1998 and 1999 Nationwide Series titles. He follows his legendary father Dale Earnhardt Sr., a seven-time Cup champion and winner of 76 races, and his grandfather Ralph Earnhardt, the 1956 NASCAR Sportsman champion. In October 2009, Earnhardt Sr. was selected as a posthumous inductee in the inaugural 2010 class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In 2007, Ralph Earnhardt was inducted posthumously into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. Both his father and grandfather were selected among NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers of all time in 1999. The three Earnhardts combine for 10 NASCAR championships.
Until 2008, Earnhardt Jr. 's career as a full-time driver was solely within the confines of the family-owned business, Dale Earnhardt Inc. where he accumulated 39 victories in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup 1 Series from 1998-2007. But the 2008 season marked one of significant change, as Earnhardt made the boldest decision of his young career by signing with renowned team owner Rick Hendrick to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. High-powered sponsorship deals soon fo llowed, as Pepsi-Cola's AMP Energy brand and Ihe Army National Guard agreed to a co-primary sponsorship with Hendrick Motorsports 10 partner with Earnhardt and the No. 88 team.
With a successful driving career in motion, Earnhardt's role as team owner and businessman has enjoyed its own ascent. In 2002, JR Motorsports consisted of only six employees and a street-stock Camaro raced at local short tracks. Today the organization employs more than 100 people and encompasses a full stable of cars that competes in the Nationwide Series and local weekly lale model divisions. In July 2007, Earnhardt announced a partnership deal with Hendrick Motorsports - under the JRM banner with Hendrick Motorsports engines, chassis and vehicle engineering support - to field two Nationwide Series race teams. JR Motorsports earned four victories in 2008, four more in 2009 and one in 2010 to establish itself as one of the top contending organizations in the Nationwide Series. Earnhardt's company continued making headlines in December 2009 by signing open-wheel racer Danica Patrick to a two-year driving deal with primary partner GoDaddy.com. The move grouped two ofracing's most popular athletes under one roof.
Earnhardt's first turn at ownership began with Chance 2, a team started in 2002 and jointly operated with Dale Earnhardt Inc. With that team , Earnhardt was co-owner of the 2004 and 2005 Nationwide Series championship teams with driver Martin Truex Jr.
Fans and media selected Earnhardt as one of the top-three NationÂ·wide Series drivers of all-time in a 2006 NASCAR poll. Earnhardt's 23 victories rank ninth on the all-time Nationwide Series wins list. His two Championships in 1998 and 1999 introduced him to the NASCAR history books, and his accomplishments throughout the ensuing decade reinforced his place in them. On July 2, 2010, Earnhardt scored a popular victory at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in a throwback blue-and-yellow NO.3 Chevrolet made famous by his father in the mid-1980s. It was Earnhardt's sixth Nationwide Series victory at Daytona - the most among active drivers and just one behind overall leader Earnhardt Sr. It was his 13th victory in all NASCAR-sanctioned events at Daytona, and it brought the family win total at the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway to 47.
With crossover appeal unmatched by any other athlete, Earnhardt Jr. continues to garner media attention worldwide. He has appeared on more than 150 magazine covers and has been featured in highprofile publications such as Maxim, Rolling Stone, GO, Men's Journal, Sports Illustrated, People magazine and TV Guide.
In 2009, Earnhardt appeared on country music's biggest stage as a presenter at the 43rd annual CMA Country Music Awards. The live telecast on ABC was watched by 35.8 million viewers according to Nielsen Media Research. It marked Earnhardt's first appearance at a major pop-culture awards show since he was a pres.enter at the 2002 MTV Music Awards. He has been a guest on "60 Minutes," "The Late Show with David Letterman,' "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno~'' Late Night with Conan 0'8rien," The Today Show, ' 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," ' The Jimmy Kimmel Show," ' Good Morning America," "Live with Regis and Kelly" and "Larry King Live: He has played cameo roles in major motion pictures "Talladega Nights" and 'Cars' and was the subject of an episode of MTV's "Diary' and VH1's' Driven: In 2004, he played a cameo role on the CBS sitcom "Yes Dear." In 2010, he was featured in an episode of ' ShaQ Vs.' - ABC's Fall primetime reality show in which NBA superstar ShaQuilie O'Neal went one-on-one against America's top athletes and entertainers in their respective professions.
Earnhardt's eciecUc taste in music is reflected in the diverse list of artists that have fea tured him in their music videos, includ ing Jay-Z, Staind, Sheryl Crow, Three Doors Down, Trace Adkins, OAR., the Matthew Good Band and Nickelback. Earnhardt became a bestselling author in 2001 with "Driver 8," a documentation of his rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The book landed on the New York Times best-seller list for 17 weeks, and online retailer Amazon.com named ' Driver 8' the top-selling sports book of the year.
In July 2010, Harris Poll rated Etlardt 10th in its "America's Favorite Sport's Star" rankings. In its October 2008 issue, BusinessWeek magazine named Earnhardt to its top 100 most influential people in sports, ranking him 38th overall. The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer listed him among the top-10 most powerful people in NASCAR in 2007. In recent polls and surveys, he recieved a top-five 'Q" rating among all athletes and rated among the top-five athletes in corporate endorsements by Forbes magazine.
Earnhardt's business savvy extends beyond the track. In 2006, he started I1ammerhead Entertainment, a one-stop-snap production company that has produced shows for multiple national television networks, including ' Back in the Day" on SPEED Channel, and "Dale Jr. - Shifting Gears" on ESPN. "Shifting Gears" was a five-part documentary in 2008 that chronicled Earnhardt's move to Hendrick Motorsports and gave unique insight into the chaotic world of "Little E." In April 2008, Earnhardt extended his entrepreneurship into the Charlotte, N.C., entertainment scene, as he opened Whisky River, an uptown bar and nightclub located in the EpiCentre. In April 2010, Whisky River expanded to a second location in Jacksonville, Fla.
While the obligations of being a driver and team owner occupy much of his time , Earnhardt is active in charities and non-profit organizations. In 2007, he launched The Dale Jr. Foundation, a charity dedicated to giving underprivileged individuals, with a focus on youth, the resources to improve their confidence and education. Through 2010, The Dale Jr. Foundation has contributed to more than 700 local and national organizations. He also is involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In May 2010, Make-A-Wish recognized Earnhardt as one of only a handful of athletes who has facilitated more than 200 "wishes' for kids battling tenninal or life-threatening illnesses. The occasion was documented by ESPN SportsCenter's "My Wish" series, in which Earnhardt invited 16-year-oJd Jeffrey Buzzell to race gO-k'arts at his home in Mooresville, N,C., and join the No. 88 crew during the 2010 SprintAII-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt's hobbies include hanging out at home, listening to music, computer gaming and continuously Quenching his thirst for NASCAR history. Ae has a small golf course, three gO-kart tracks and a vintage Western-style town on his property near Mooresville, N.C.
Birthdate: Oct 10, 1974
Resides: Mooresville, N.C.
Hometown: Kannapolis, N.C.
Height: 5'8" Weight: 158 lbs.