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 business savvy are all his own. His common-sense charisma and flair for originality have helped propel him to become one of the most popular figures in sports. Race fans have selected him a record 15 consecutive times as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. Earnhardt tops all NASCAR and IndyCar drivers on MVPindex’s social media power rankings. His appeal is not limited to loyal race fans, as Earnhardt has appeared on Harris Interactive’s annual survey of America’s Top 10 Favorite Athletes, frequenting the list with such names as LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning and Derek. In April, Earnhardt announced that 2017 would be his final full-time season of NASCAR Cup Series competition. Beginning in 2018, the native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, will join NBC Sports Group’s NASCAR coverage. Earnhardt’s role with NBCUniversal will allow him a wide range of opportunities in the company’s media businesses, including movies, television, podcasts, and other areas.Through the end of his full-time career, Earnhardt amassed 26 career victories, including the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500s. His 26 victories tie him for 29th on NASCAR’s all-time race winners list. He also has 13 pole positions and eight non-points wins (five in the Daytona 500 qualifying Duel, two in the Clash and one All-Star Race victory). Even though he was sidelined for the second half of the 2016 season with a concussion, Earnhardt still managed to find success, scoring a victory in his preseason Daytona 500 qualifying Duel and earning four runner-up finishes through the first 18 races. Overall, Earnhardt has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times (2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015).
Earnhardt is the only third-generation NASCAR champion, achieved when he won the 1998 and 1999 NASCAR Xfinity 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 Xfinity and Cup 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 NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.Earnhardt’s role as a team owner and businessman continues to enjoy its own ascent separate from his driving career. JR Motorsports employs more than 140 people and fields four full-time entries in the Xfinity Series, in addition to two late model stock cars competing regionally in the Southeast. From its inception in 2006, JR Motorsports has scored 40 Xfinity Series wins. Chase Elliott earned the company’s first Xfinity Series championship in 2014 with teammate Regan Smith completing a one-two sweep of the top spots in the driver standings. Josh Berry secured track championship honors for the JRM late model program racing at Motor Mile Speedway (2012) and Hickory Motor Speedway (2014). William Byron added a second Xfinity Series title to the team's stable in 2017.
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 Xfinity Series championship teams with driver Martin Truex Jr.
Fans and media selected Earnhardt as one of the top-three Xfinity Series drivers of all-time in a 2006 NASCAR poll. Earnhardt’s 24 victories rank him tied for 10th on the all-time 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. On July 2, 2010, Earnhardt scored a popular victory at Daytona 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 Xfinity Series victory at Daytona, which ranks second all-time behind Tony Stewart and Earnhardt Sr. with seven each. On April 23, 2016, Earnhardt Jr. scored his most recent Xfinity Series victory, and his first in a JRM entry, at Richmond International Raceway.
With crossover appeal that stretches beyond his accomplishments as an athlete in NASCAR, Earnhardt continues to garner media attention worldwide. He has appeared on more than 150 magazine covers and has been featured in high-profile publications such as Maxim, Rolling Stone, GQ, Men’s Journal, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Men’s Fitness and TV Guide. In 2012, Forbes magazine ranked Earnhardt seventh overall on its list of “Most Influential Athletes.” In January 2013, BusinessWeek magazine named Earnhardt to its top 100 most influential people in sports. The Charlotte Observer listed him sixth among the top-25 most influential in NASCAR in 2014. In July 2014, Harris Poll rated Earnhardt tied for fifth in its “America’s Favorite Sports Star” rankings, and rated him tied for eighth in the category in September 2015, marking his 11th appearance in the top 10. In May 2016, ESPN ranked Earnhardt as the most famous auto racing driver in the world. Earnhardt tops all NASCAR and IndyCar drivers on MVPindex’s 2016 social media power rankings. He has a following of more than 5.2 million across his three main social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Earnhardt’s business sense extends beyond the track. In 2006, he started Hammerhead Entertainment, a one-stop-shop production company that produces shows for multiple national television networks. In April 2008, Earnhardt extended his entrepreneurship into the Charlotte, North Carolina, entertainment scene, as he opened Whisky River, an uptown bar and nightclub located in the EpiCentre. In May 2015, Whisky River expanded to include a location at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Earnhardt launched “Dirty Mo Radio,” a podcast network, in February 2013, which features race recaps as well as behind-the-scenes insight from Earnhardt, team members, family members and others. The free podcasts can be found on dalejr.com and other outlets such as iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher.