Dale Earnhardt Jr. made two special outings in a No. 3 Busch Series car in 2002, one at the circuit where his father died (Daytona) and the other at the track where he made his maiden Winston Cup start (Charlotte). Earnhardt Jr. won the first of the two races, the season opener at Daytona. He also finished second at Charlotte to Bill Elliott by a margin of less than three seconds.
Earnhardt Jr.'s Busch Series team was owned by his brother Kerry, who managed both boys during their time in NASCAR's top division. The family business began when Dale Sr. started winning races in 1991, giving the company its first championship trophy. In 1992, the Earnhardts joined forces with Jack Roush to form Roush Racing, and the team has been winning ever since. In 2001, Dale Jr. became the first driver to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same year. He is still going strong today, having recently announced that he will not be racing for another few months due to health concerns related to an ongoing heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
In February 2003, Earnhardt Jr. announced that he would not run any more races that season because of heart problems. However, he returned for two more starts in 2004 before finally calling it a day.
Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was a fantastic racing car driver who spent the most of his career on the NASCAR circuit. Dale began his racing career in 1975, when he finished 22nd in the World 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. He went on to win seven races during his first season of competition.
Earnhardt's success continued in the following years, with him winning over 80 races during his career. In 1979, he became the first driver to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, and the National Championship. At the time of his death in 2001 at the age of 48, he had won more than $20 million in career prizes. His son Dale Jr. has also been very successful in racing, having won over 100 races during his own career.
After earning his first victory at the 1980 Talladega Superspeedway, where he beat out Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace by a few feet, everyone expected Dale to continue his dominance over the sport. But after losing several races due to crashes and other incidents, he decided to change gears and become one of the best pit crew members in history. He started working on cars while still driving, which is something only a few drivers have ever done before or since. He eventually worked his way up to team owner in 1984, when he bought part of the struggling Richard Childress Racing team.
Daytona 500 Facts 9: Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Earnhardt competed in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2001. He was involved in a three-car crash on the last lap. Before slamming into Ken Schrader, his automobile made minor impact with Sterling Marlin. Earnhardt was not wearing a seat belt and was killed instantly. The other two drivers also died.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. became the first driver to win the Daytona 500 after coming from outside of the top five finishers. He had started 21st and passed several cars to take over the lead before being caught by Kurt Busch with only four laps to go. Earnhardt then reclaimed first place away from Busch with three laps to go and held off a hard-charging Busch for his first victory at Daytona.
He won again in 2001 and 2002. In between, he finished second in 2000 to Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt's death left Gordon as the all-time winningest driver at Daytona with six victories.
Earnhardt is survived by his wife Wendy and two children, Ashley and Daniel. His father Dale, Jr., and brother Michael also race at Daytona.