Dale Earnhardt Jr.
93rd DCAT Annual Dinner Speaker
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a third-generation driver in a family forever connected to the sport of stock car racing, and while his innate ability behind the wheel comes from Earnhardt DNA, his competitive driving style and business savvy are all his own. Through 2016, Earnhardt amassed 26 career victories, including the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500s. His 26 victories tie him for 29th on NASCAR’s all-time race winners list. His common-sense charisma and flair for originality have helped propel him to become one of the most popular figures in sports. Race fans have selected him a record 15 consecutive times as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. His appeal is not limited to loyal race fans, as Forbes magazine ranked Earnhardt seventh overall on its 2012 list of “Most Influential Athletes” and in 2013 BusinessWeek magazine named Earnhardt to its top 100 most influential people in sports.
In Earnhardt’s memoir, Racing to the Finish: My Story (released in October 2018), he opens up about his personal life and shares stories about how his career and his injury have transformed him, how he made the decision to retire at the end of the 2017 season after eighteen years behind the wheel, and what lies ahead for him in the next chapter of his life. A native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, Earnhardt provides a detailed account of his experience with concussions and hopes to encourage others who have suffered similar injuries to come forward and get treatment. Following Earnhardt’s final full-time season of NASCAR Cup Series, he joined NASCAR on NBC as an analyst.
Earnhardt is the only third-generation NASCAR champion, achieved when he won the 1998 and 1999 NASCAR XFINITY Series titles. He follows his legendary father Dale Earnhardt Sr., a seven-time Cup champion and winner of 76 races, and his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, the 1956 NASCAR Sportsman champion. Both his father and grandfather were selected among NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers of all time in 1999. Earnhardt Jr.’s career as a full-time driver was solely within the confines of the family-owned business, Dale Earnhardt Inc., until 2008 when he moved to Hendrick Motorsports to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Earnhardt is also one of the team owners of JR Motorsports, a NASCAR Xfinity team that employs more than 140 people and fields four full-time entries in the XFINITY Series, in addition to two late model stock cars competing regionally in the Southeast. From its inception in 2006, JR Motorsports has scored 44 XFINITY Series wins.
While the obligations of being a driver and team owner occupy much of his time, Earnhardt is active in charities and non-profit organizations. In 2007, he launched The Dale Jr. Foundation, a charity dedicated to giving underprivileged individuals, with a focus on youth, the resources to improve their confidence, education and the opportunity to achieve extraordinary goals. The Dale Jr. Foundation has contributed to more than 400 local and national organizations. He also is involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In May 2010, Make-A-Wish recognized Earnhardt as one of only a handful of athletes who has facilitated more than 200 “wishes” for kids battling terminal or life-threatening illnesses. In recognition of his career achievements as a champion driver, team owner and philanthropist, Earnhardt was named the recipient of the 2014 NMPA Myers Brothers Award, a prestigious accolade recognizing those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing. In 2016, a harmless tweet from Earnhardt about his sandwich of choice, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and banana on white bread, went viral and triggered an outpouring of donations for Blessings in a Backpack, which provides food for children who face hunger on weekends when they are out of school. More than 1,195 donors contributed, while The Dale Jr. Foundation and Hellmann’s each pledged to donate $50,000, raising a total of $159,935.33 for the charity.