We take a look at highlights from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s career in NASCAR, from his debut to all the most important moments in his career:
1996: At 21, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his NASCAR national touring series debut in the Xfinity Series. Driving the No. 31 Mom ‘n’ Pop’s Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc., he also qualified seventh and finished 14th at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
1998: He won his first Xfinity Series race in his 16th start, at Texas Motor Speedway. This victory also led Earnhardt to believe he could race professionally and pursue his passion as a career. He reeled off six more victories en route to his first Xfinity Series championship, his first major title.
1999: Earnhardt made his Sprint Cup Series debut with the No. 8 Chevrolet in May at NASCAR’s longest race — the Coca-Cola 600 — at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He finished 16th. Despite a slow start in the Xfinity Series season, with no wins in the first 14 events, he made a comeback with six victories — including three in a row — 18 top-fives and 22 top-10s, to capture the championship in his second and final full-time year on the circuit.
2000: Earnhardt ran his first full-time season in Cup and scored his first victory at Texas. He followed that, with wins at Richmond International Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway Where he also became the first rookie to win NASCAR’s All-Star race. He finished his rookie season with two wins, three top-fives, five top-10s, two poles, finishing 16th in points.
2001: His father and namesake, racing legend and seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr., died Feb. 18, 2001, in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. Earnhardt Jr. raced the entire season and when the circuit returned to Daytona International Speedway in July, he won an emotional Pepsi 400 and dedicated the race to his dad. He also won at Dover International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway later that year. He finished eighth in the standings.
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