NASCAR DRIVER PROFILE - DALE EARNHARDT JR.

Flamboyant off the track and quite tenacious on it, there’s no stopping this young man from Kannapolis, N.C. -- That is, until he reaches his goal of winning a Winston Cup championship.

  • 2001 victories: Pepsi 400, MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400, EA Sports 500.
  • Born: Kannapolis, N.C.
  • Resides: Mooresville, N.C.
  • Family: Earnhardt is single.
  • Team: Dale Earnhardt Inc.
  • Car: Chevrolet
  • Sponsor: Budweiser
  • Car owner: Dale Earnhardt
  • Crew chief: Tony Eury
2001 review: Three wins - all since July - provided Earnhardt Jr.'s team a strong burst of momentum down the stretch and his team became much more consistent.

2002 outlook: The added experience and strong second-half performance last season leave Earnhardt Jr. is a good position to battle for the championship.

Earnhardt won the NASCAR Grand National series championship in 1998 and 1999.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who came into the 2001 season thinking the biggest obstacle he would face would be a sophomore slump, endured the loss of the his father in the Daytona 500 and went on to establish himself as one of the sport's superstars. Earnhardt finished second in the Daytona 500, but faltered with a first lap crash and 43rd-place finish the next weekend at Rockingham. He didn't stay down for long, though.

Junior scored three emotional victories and came back to finish eighth in points. The first victory came when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returned to Daytona for the Pepsi 400. The second came at Dover, Del., in the first race after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Earnhardt also won at Talladega in the EA Sports 500 -- the site of his father's final victory. That Talladega victory earned Junior a Winston No Bull 5 $1 million bonus that pushed him to a season winnings total of $5,827,542. That was bolstered by nine top-fives and 15 top-10 finishes, as well as two Bud Poles.

Before the 2000 season, many thought Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the front-runner for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. It didn't pan out that way frequent challenger Matt Kenseth outran Junior in the Daytona 500, and never let up in his run to the title. Kenseth ultimately scored a 42-point victory in the rookie race.

Earnhardt's close relationship with his cousin, car chief Tony Eury Jr., crew chief Tony Eury and his crew, was both a blessing and a curse. The continuation of his Busch Series success into Winston Cup created an atmosphere that was too distracting and disruptive for the operation's success to continue.

Junior did have a part in recreating one Winston Cup milestone in 2000 when he competed with his father and older half brother, Kerry Earnhardt, in the Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. That occasion was only the second time that a father had raced against two sons. Lee, Richard and Maurice Petty had previously accomplished the feat.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started 2001 with vivid dreams of a Daytona 500 victory in his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet. Despite the idiosyncrasies of his rookie year, Earnhardt has proven beyond any doubt that his name isn't the only key to success.

Earnhardt began his professional driving career at the age of 17, competing in the Street Stock division at Concord (N.C.) Motorsport Park. His first race car was a 1978 Monte Carlo that he co-owned with Kerry. Within two seasons, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had honed his driving abilities to the point of joining the Late Model Stock Car division. There, he developed an in-depth knowledge of chassis setup and car preparation, while racing against Kerry and their sister Kelley. With his father's guidance and his own experience on the short tracks throughout the Carolinas, he was ready to take a bold step forward.

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