In 1998, Dale Earnhardt Jr, moved into bigtime NASCAR racing. Being the youngest son of legendary 7-time champion Dale Earnhardt brought about many expectations. With a name so rich in tradition, many people expected Jr to fall on his face. NOT!!!
Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr was born October 10, 1974 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. With racing in his blood, it didn't take long for Jr to realize what he wanted to do.
Dale Jr started his professional driving career at 17 years old in the Street Stock Division at Concord Motorsports Park. Within 2 years he joined NASCAR's Late Model Stock Division. Three seasons in this division brought 12 poles and 3 wins in 113 starts.
Junior made his first career NASCAR Busch Series start in 1996 at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina finishing 14th. He made 8 more starts before going BGN racing full-time posting 1 top 10.
The 1998 season saw Dale Jr run his first full Busch Grand National in the DEI owned #3 AC Delco Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Not being eligible for rookie honors, Jr and team chased bigger goals. Jr's first season brought his first BGN championship with 7 wins, 16 top 5's, and 22 top 10's in 31 starts.
As defending champions in 1999, Jr and the #3 AC Delco team set their sights to win consecutive titles. With another great season, Jr won his second championship in as many years with 6 wins, 18 top 5's, and 22 top 10's in 32 starts. Jr also made his official Winston Cup debut in 1999 running 5 races sponsored by Budweiser.
Dale Jr moved up to the Winston Cup in 2000 driving the Dale Earnhardt Incorporated #8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Jr let everyone know he was for real by having an outstanding rookie season that included winning the Winston All-Star event. By the season's end he finished 16th in points with 2 wins, 3 top 5's, and 5 top 10's in 34 starts.
The 2001 season started with the tragic death of Jr's legendary father at the Daytona 500. Doing as his dad would have wanted, Jr continued racing. At the end of a season so filled with emotion, Jr was 8th in points with 3 wins, 9 top 5's, and 15 top 10's in 36 starts.
Thought to be a title contender in 2002, Jr started the season strong. A crash at California left Jr with a concussion resulting in a string of subpar finishes during the middle portion of the season. Getting back in stride for the late season, his finishes became stronger and more consistant. Jr's final tally was an 11th in points with 2 wins, 11 top 5's, and 16 top 10's in 36 starts.
2003 once again saw Jr as a preseason favorite for the final Winston Cup, Jr took to the track determined more than ever. Jr was on the hunt until the very end finishing 3rd in points with 2 wins, 13 top 5's, and 21 top 10's in 36 starts.