Dale Earnhardt was determined to follow the driving
career of his father, 1956 NASCAR Sportsman
champion Ralph Earnhardt. The seemingly
impossible career path he set in motion is one of the
greatest success stories in all of professional sports.
While racing on some of North Carolina’s most noted short tracks following
his father’s death in 1973, Earnhardt struggled mightily to fund his racing operation.
He often borrowed money from a local bank on Thursday to race that weekend. Payments had to be made the following Monday without fail. So Earnhardt had to race
hard and had to win. Drivers were often left fuming when the checkered flag fell.
Beginning in 1975, four NASCAR Cup Series starts for Ed Negre, Johnny Ray and
Walter Ballard helped Earnhardt make an impression at stock car racing’s highest
level. His best ride materialized with five events for team owner Rod Osterlund in
1978 and a full schedule of races for the California businessman in 1979, the year
he won Rookie of the Year honors with a victory at Bristol, 11 top-five finishes and 17
top- 10 results. The next season, Earnhardt stunned the racing community by winning
his first of seven Cup Series championships in Osterlund’s Chevrolet. When the team
was sold to J.D. Stacy in 1981, Earnhardt exited with 10 races remaining and joined
former Cup Series driver Richard Childress.
After parting ways for two seasons, they reunited in 1984 and created one of the
greatest dynasties in NASCAR history. Six of Earnhardt’s seven Cup Series titles and
67 of his 76 victories came while driving for Childress, including the 1995 Brickyard
400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 1998 Daytona 500.
Earnhardt lost his life in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. His
contributions to the sport he so dearly loved are considered immeasurable.
■ April 29, 1951
■ Kannapolis, N.C.
■ Wrangler Jeans
■ GM Goodwrench 3
EARNHARDT IS THE
only driver to win the Cup Series Rookie of the Year title
and the Cup Series championship in successive years
(1979 and 1980). A second
championship came in 1986,
followed by five more titles in
1987, 1991, 1993 and 1994.
Earnhardt finished second
in points during his final full
season in 2000.
DURING A CAREER
that spanned from 1975
to the season-opening
Daytona 500 in 2001,
Earnhardt was one of the
most aggressive drivers in
NASCAR history. A member
of the inaugural NASCAR
Hall of Fame Class in 2010,
he is recognized as an icon
among the sport’s greatest
THE YEAR (1987)
Earnhardt won his third Cup
Series championship, the
Kannapolis, N.C., native
logged 11 victories, 21 top-five
finishes, 24 top- 10 results
and one pole position for team
owner Richard Childress.
Earnhardt led 3,354 of 9,043
total laps that season with an
average finish of 5. 9 during the
ANYTIME YOU GET THE
OPPORTUNITY TO WIN A RACE,
YOU’RE GOING TO WIN THE RACE.
I AM NEVER GOING TO BACK OFF.
I NEVER WANT TO RUN SECOND.
BEN WHI TE GE T T Y IMAGES