Dale Earnhardt Was born in Kannapolis North Carolina in 1951 to parents Ralph Earnhardt and Martha. His father was a factory worker, and Friday night dirt track racer, and discouraged Dale from racing. Ralph died of a Heart attack in 1973, and made Dale question his whole racing career for a few months, before coming back to racing. Dale eventually made it to NASCAR level, with the help of Humpy Wheeler, and irritating NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip in the process. His has also lost a few friends to NASCAR accidents. Neil Bonnet, Davey Allison, and Alan Kuwiki are a few of those lost, although Kuwiki and Davey were lost in airplane crashes.
Dale Earnhardt has escaped multiple Near fatal wrecks, the most famous being, the 2001 Daytona 500 wreck, and the 1998 Daytona 500 wreck ... The 2001 Daytona 500 already had a giant wreck at halfway that took out drivers, Tony Stewart (airborne, and rolling over the backstretch) and Jeff Gordon, among other drivers. on the last lap, Earnhardt Sr was blocking for his Son, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and DEI employee Micheal Waltrip. Going into Turn 4 on the last lap, Sterling Marlin was trying to pass Sr, And hooked his car in the right rear panel, resulting in his car spinning in front of the whole field, and being hit by five different cars. The drivers that hit Dale, were, Sterling Marlin, Jeremy Mayfield, Rusty Wallace, Joe Nemecheck and Ken Shrader. Dale's car ended up in the Turn 4 infield with extensive damage, including the whole front torn away, and Almost no sheet metal left. Earnhardt Sr, having the wind knocked out of him, needed oxygen, But was fine, as was everyone else involved.
Dale;s son ended up winning the race, with Waltrip finishing second,Ricky Rudd Third, Mike Wallace 4th, and Bobby Hamilton 5th. Dale, when asked in victory lane celebrating with his Son said "Man, I'm glad he hooked me in the right, I felt the seat belts break the second I got hit the 5th time, If he had hit me in the left ... I may not be here talking to ya, and celebrating with my son". Earnhardt Sr later spoke out against the lack of requiring the HANS device in NASCAR. "If I had hit that wall with how fast I was going, I probably would have been been hurt bad." Later in 2001, Dale Sr went on to win another race at Talladega Super speedway, giving him 11 super speedway wins. He finished 2nd in championship standings behind Jeff Gordon. At the banquet in New York, Dale raised up a glass of champagne to toast Gordon, much the opposite of what he did when Gordon won his first championship.
Sr raised up a glass of milk to Gordon in 1997, in a joke at his age. The 2002 NASCAR Winston cup series found Dale Earnhardt winning the Budweiser shootout, and the Daytona 500 for the second time of his career. Dale Sr also won the 2002 Pocono race, although the event was marked by tragedy. On the halfway lap, DEI driver Steve Park lost his life in a multi-car wreck which had him slide into the wall head on at full speed and violently flipping over teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr Went over to Park's car to try and assist, but the second he got there, He ran towards the medics with the universal sign of Hurry. In Victory Lane afterwards,Sr said in tears "This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen, Steve Should be here, I warned NASCAR about the head on hits, and they didn't listen. Now they have blood on their hands". After this event, NASCAR launched a full investigation, and required the HANS device for the following race, out of caution, yet kept the open helmets. Four weeks after the wreck, NASCAR announced it was a lack of neck support and the open Helmet that resulted in the fatality, and they were mandating the HANS device as of the next race in Bristol. The rest of the season was average for Earnhardt, winning two more races, and finishing up 10th in points. At the last race of the 2002 season, Dale Earnhardt Sr announced he was retiring from full time driving after the 2003 season. The 2003 season was a forgettable year for Sr, with no wins, two top fives, and ten top 15 finishes. He failed to make the July Daytona race, and was visibly shaken after qualifying. "I don't know what happened out there, It's like the air started to try and flip me out there". In Dale's last race, He started 25th, but led the pace laps as the pace car. His final race had him leading for 30 laps, but finished 29th 5 laps down, after a wreck with 15 laps to go. Dale was racing for 5th place, when Kurt Busch bumped into his right rear corner, and sent him spinning. At the last moment, his car went airborne, and flipped over several times, with damage. His crew was able to get his car back onto the track for the final lap, but he finished 25th, 5 laps down. After this finish, The grandstand went wild, when the damaged 3 car took its final lap around Homestead, Much like Richard Petty's final race. In his post race interview, Dale said visibly choked up "All these years, An driving for the same sponsor and team, I wanna thank Richard (Childress) For the opportunity he gave me, As well as Humpy Wheeler, and everyone else. I wanna thank Goodwrench for sticking with me even through the bad years, and want to say to Jeff Gordon, You are the face of the sport now, Don't let me down boy". Dale finished the year 22nd in points and was honored at the Banquet in New York for his illustrious NASCAR career, and won Driver of the year, unseating Bill Elliot. Dale Then went on to manage Dale Earnhardt incorporated, with drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr, Micheal Waltrip, and New driver Kevin Harvick. In 2004 Dale became one of the few owners to be involved in an on track incident. Driver Rusty Wallace wrecked Kevin Harvick on the halfway lap at Daytona, spinning him in front of the entire field. amazingly, Everyone avoided Harvick's out of control car. Dale then went over to Rusty's pits tall to wait for him, and got into a fistfight with Rusty. "He wrecked my driver in a dangerous manner, I thought after Adam, Tony, and John he would have some sense, I guess I was wrong". Rusty had no comment. Dale was later fined 100,000 dollars and put on probation until December 31st, 2004. Dale gave an interview that year, and surprised many people with an answer to a question asked by Marty Smith. Marty: "Dale, people still ask you about the 2001 Daytona wreck where your seat belt snapped, What was different about this wreck" "You see, I had some dreams about the 2001 Daytona 500 after it happened. One of them was, It was the final lap, But Micheal Waltrip was leading the race with Jr in second. Coming into the last turn, Sterling bumped into my right rear, which sent me into the wall at full speed. Mikey went on to win the race, but my car had stopped in the Turn Four grass. I saw Kenny come over to the car and scream for help. The scene then faded to Mike Helton saying "We Lost Dale Earnhardt in Turn 4 of the final lap", I woke up at that moment screamin'". Later that year, Dale Sr got back behind the wheel for two races when his driver and son Dale Earnhardt Jr was seriously burned in a Sports car race that year. Earnhardt finished 20th in both starts. 2004 had Kevin Harvick winning three races,including the July Daytona race, and the season finale at Homestead. Micheal Waltrip finished the year with one win at Taledega, amazingly winning on his roof after his car got airborne 500 feet from the start finish line. After Dale Jr got back into the car, He finished 23rd in points with no wins, obviously still suffering from his burns. In 2005, NASCAR was thinking about leaving Rockingham for a track in Southern California, Dale was livid. "NASCAR better not do this, they would be sellin' the fans out for the money on the dang mile and a half track". NASCAR took one race from Rockingham and gave it to Fontana. At the 2005 Daytona speed weeks, It was announced that DEI was looking at signing Matt Kenseth away from Rousch racing for a fourth team, sponsored by Dewalt tools. Kenseth signed the week before the Budweiser shootout, Giving DEI four top quality drivers under their roof. (Kenseth, Jr, Harvick, Waltrip). The 2005 Daytona 500 was actually the first NASCAR race with the new rule of the Green White Checkered finish rule- meaning the race would end under yellow with multiple attempts. Dale Jarret won the pole for the 500, but lost it to driver Jimmie Johnson, who then lost control on Turn 4 of the 10th lap, spun, and collected 12 cars, including Matt Kenseth. Matt Kenseth afterwards said in an interview "Nothing against Johnson, But that was a really stupid move running that high in Turn 4 and expecting to make it through." Jeff Gordon took the lead from a pit cycle, and led from lap 12 to lap 140 with no contest. On lap 150 however, Jimmie Johnson spun out again, but tagged Scott Riggs in the right rear, sending him rolling down the backstretch grass, and ending up 20 feet from Lake Lloyd. Riggs became the first driver in over 20 years to leave the Daytona racing surface as the result of a wreck. Ten other cars were collected, turning Turn 3 into the "Junkyard corner" Jeff Gordon ended up winning the race after Terry Labonte blew a motor on the white flag lap, leading Dale Jr, M. Waltrip, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, Kyle Petty, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards (Rookie), and Kasey Kahne. 2005 had DEI end the season with ten wins (five for Jr, three For Harvick, one for M Waltrip, and one for Kenseth). Kurt Busch won the championship in the first year of the Chase for the Cup, with Jeff Gordon finishing second, and Jimmie Johnson finishing third. DEI had two drivers in the chase, Harvick finished 5th, and Dale Jr finished 8th). Kenseth and Mikey Waltrip missed the chase, but ran tough for the final race of the year.
Nothing of note happened between 2006-2010. Jimmie Johnson won his first Sprint cup in 2006, Jeff Gordon won his 6th in 2007, Carl Edwards won his first Championship in 2008, Mark Martin finally won his first championship in 2009. Jimmie Johnson won his 2nd championship in 2010
2011 Had an attempted merger between DEI and Chip Ganassi racing, which ultimately fell apart. DEI driver Matt Kenseth finished third in the battle for the championship that eventually went to Tony Stewart in the closest championship in the 60 year history of NASCAR. Carl Edwards finished second. Micheal Waltrip also ran his final race as a driver in the Sprint cup series. He finished 16th in his final race in a throwback car to his 2001 Daytona 500 winning car.
2012 started off with DEI in a bit of a controversy. After Micheal Waltrip's retirement in 2011, Dale Earnhardt Inc struggled to find a replacement driver, but eventually landed Kyle Busch, recently let go from Joe Gibbs racing after a final on track incident that lost the sponsorship of M&Ms from his final two races with JGR. Kyle Busch was fired from his 18 car, and sat out the last two races of 2011. Kyle Busch was announced on January 15th 2012 to be the new driver of the #15 McDonald's car. "Kyle has a lot of talent behind a wheel, he just needs the right team" Dale said in an interview. In the Budweiser shootout, Kyle Busch intentionally plowed into the side of Jeff Gordon, the wreck causing Gordon's car to barrel roll down the backstretch of Daytona International raceway. Jeff Gordon was fine, but mad. "Who's bright idea was it to put that #$%$ driver in the 15 car? He's one of the worst drivers active" Gordon was quoted as saying after checked out in the infield care center. Kyle Busch ended the shootout in the 10th place, and not happy. Dale was seen going over to the 15 car to talk to Kyle, but Kyle walked away from him. Dale Grabbed his shoulder, and Kyle was seen shoving his boss on pit road after the race. Dale had no comment after that, but the following speed weeks, Dale kept a cold shoulder to his newest driver. The 2012 season had Dale Earnhardt Jr driving the #8 Budweiser car, Matt Kenseth driving the 1 car sponsored by Pennzoil, Kyle Busch driving the #15 McDonald's car, and the 3 for Kevin Harvick.
The Daytona 500 was another embarrassment for Kyle Busch. While leading with 5 laps to go, Kyle Busch had a tire blow out, and wrecked into teammate Dale Jr who was running second. The resulting spin eventually took out 7 of the remaining top ten, with only Jeff Gordon getting by the chaos and winning his 4th Daytona 500. The season was amazing for 3 of the 4 DEI cars. 10 wins, including the Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500. 8 poles-with Kevin Harvick winning 5 of those, and 29 top 10's for the 8 car. Kyle Busch struggled and barely stayed in the top 35 in owner points. Newcomer Brad Keselouski won his first championship, with Rodger Penske getting his first NASCAR championship. Jeff Gordon won his first race at Homestead. Dale actually offered his congratulations to Gordon afterwards "Congrats Jeff, one more to go, wonder boy. Glad you were allowed to race this week". (Jeff Gordon was facing possibly being parked after wrecking Clint Bowyer under caution at Phoenix after Bowyer ran him into the wall intentionally. Jeff then was at his hauler afterwards, when Bowyer's entire pit crew tried to attack Gordon. Gordon actually punched the tire changer in the mouth before he was thrown out of the way by his own tire changer. Earnhardt being a friend of Gordon watched this going on and was actually overheard telling Kyle Busch's crew to "go protect Jeff", since Kyle was already out.). DEI driver Kyle Busch was also wrecked in the ensuring wreck.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr, 8. 5th in points, 4 wins, 15 top 5's 29 top 10s. 4 DNF
- Kevin Harvick, 3, 8th in points 3 wins, 14 top 5's 20 top 10's 2 DNF
- Matt Kenseth 1, 13th in points 3 wins 5 top 5's 10 top 10's 6 DNF
- Kyle Busch 15 30th in points. 0 wins 1 top 5 4 top 10's 16 DNF
2013 started out with Dale making his opinion known about the new car. "I am not sure I like this car, it looks boxy and the quality of plate tracks is gonna suck I bet". Dale was also vocal about new comer Danica Patrick. "She has no business behind the wheel of a car. I got nothing against women in the sport, well ones that earn their seat that is"
Dale Earnhardt Inc was fielding a Nationwide series car for the first time in four years. The driver was Kyle Larson, a new driver in his first season, only running a handful of races. A near tragedy happened in the Nationwide race though. On the final turn, Kyle Larson was leading, but was hit from behind by Brad Keselouski. The spin eventually caused Kyle's car to get airborne, and was hit from behind which sent the front of the car into the grandstands, shearing off the entire car in front of the fire wall. Kyle Larson walked away with no injury but was noticeably shaken up. The fans were not so lucky. A tire was thrown into the upper level of the lower seats, injuring a fan. The entire engine ended up where a cameraman was standing seconds before. The camera man ran just seconds before the hit. Pieces of car caused lacerations, and multitudes of other injuries. In all, 28 fans were severely injured. Tony Stewart won the race, but didn't celebrate at all. He was in tears in victory lane, a very silent victory lane at that. Rumors started flying afterwards that fans had died instantly over twitter. Those reports were later proven wrong. The investigation was still going on as of April 2013.
The 2013 Daytona 500 started off on a relatively low key due to the events of the previous day. The racing on the track may have shown that as well. Despite double digit passes for the lead, many fans and drivers thought it was the worst Daytona 500 they had ever seen. Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr won his second 500 this year, he was critical in victory lane. "This car sucks. You can't do @!#$ in it!. I apologize to the fans for having to watch such a pathetic race". His father had the same thoughts. "I told you this car was gonna suck. What a pathetic race". The DEI teams finished better in the 2013 race than the previous season, except for Kyle Busch ... who was taken out by Danica Patrick at the halfway mark
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. # 8. First
- Kevin Harvick 3 9th
- Matt Kenseth 1 24th
- Kyle Busch 15 35th
Dale Earnhardt Jr was fined 25,000 dollars for "actions detrimental to stock car racing" for his colorful language the following Tuesday.
The following race at Phoenix had a bit of attempted payback on the part of Bowyer. Jeff Gordon was leading the race at the 5 lap to go mark with Kevin Harvick in second, and Kasey Kahne in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr was hanging back out in fifth and Matt Kenseth was back in tenth. Bowyer was going a lap down and attempted to put Gordon in the wall, but missed and took Harvick out instead. Needless to say, it was a repeat of the fall Phoenix race, with Harvick's crew instead of Gordon's. Both teams were fighting in the garage area. NASCAR actually red flagged the race due to the fight, which lasted at least seven minutes. Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon, friendly rivals much like Jeff and Sr were, fought hard for the win, but Gordon eventually overtaking Jr at the start finish line. Jr was quoted as saying "That was fun, I guess the car is good for this kinda racing at least". Sr was livid at Bowyer afterwards saying "That idiot can't drive a plow truck, much less a race car. What the @!#! was JD (Gibbs) thinking signing that moron?"
The DEI teams fared decently
- Dale Earnhardt Jr 8 second
- Matt Kenseth 1 tenth
- Kyle Busch 15 15th
- Kevin Harvick 32nd