Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jr.. started 2001 with vivid dreams of a Daytona 500 victory in his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, pulling strongly in the same direction with the Eurys and his crew. Despite the idiosyncrasies of his rookie year, Earnhardt Jr.. has proven beyond any doubt that his name isn't the only thing that's gotten him to the level where he is. The young man can drive a race car. In his two Busch Series championship seasons he scored 13 victories after giving little forecast before that, that he would be a threat to dominate his division. Earnhardt Jr.. 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, the young Earnhardt had honed his driving abilities to the point of joining the Late Model Stock Car division, where he developed an in-depth knowledge of chassis setup and car preparation while at times racing against Kerry Earnhardt 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. In his inaugural Busch Series event at Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 1996, Earnhardt Jr.. posted a seventh place starting position and a respectable 14th place finish. Earnhardt Jr.. says he's never worried about living up to his surname and his success in NASCAR racing didn't really come as a surprise to the third generation driver. "I don't really think about carrying on the family racing name," Earnhardt Jr.. said of his grandfather, NASCAR national Sportsman champion Ralph Earnhardt and his seven-time Winston Cup champion father. "I'm just so proud of my family and real proud to be involved with my father in racing. It's a good relationship. I'm proud of my father and grandfather and what they've done." Jr.. uses the No. 8 on his car fielded by Dale Earnhardt Inc., in honor of his grandfather's racing number.
"I Wish She Had Eyes To See What The Future Holds For Me" Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s lyrics about a girl he once had a crush on unveils the raw, but sensitive side of this young racing superstar. In releasing the words to his song (sung by Terrill Hinson and the band Bridge) Junior unveils a passion and sensitivity that fans don't often see in their hard-driving stock car heros. But don't let the soft heart fool you. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is no lightweight and he's no ordinary race car driver. As the 24-year old, second born son of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, Dale Junior has gained respect by complying with the standard expectations of a Winston Cup rookie. At the same time, he's found a way to break the mold by being his own person. Junior has a rare finesse with his personna as he does with his race car. This is a young man who is in control of himself, so he's not afraid to push the edge and be real. One of Junior's closest friends is 20 year-old Terrill Hinson, lead singer for the band Bridge. Terrill is by Junior's side most of the time at the track, on the road and even at Junior's new home, just north of Charlotte, NC. "He handles it pretty well for the pressure he's under," Hinson says. "He has to go out of town a lot, but he seems to handle it better when we're just hanging out and playing Nintendo or Play Station. It's when he's alone sometimes he feels like... man what's next?" The band's (Bridge) new CD is available on Dale Junior's souvenir rig. And Bridge can be found playing at track events across the country. Junior will occasionally de-stress by showing up and sitting in on the drums for a few sets.
Away from the track, corporate meetings and public appearances, Junior says his life really is pretty average. He likes Seinfield, Camren Diaz, Tyra Banks, red Corvettes, Chick-Fil-A and Pearl Jam. In his professional life, away from Play Station, his new mega-computer and gigs with the boys in the band, Junior is holding his line and showing his unique skills and racing bloodline on the track. His father, "The Intimidator", is not one to hand out meaningless warm fuzzies and everyone must earn his respect before he grants it, but he's always there to guide his son when the time is right. "He always waits until the last minute to say something, because that's the best time... just before I go out to practice or to qualify. He'll come up and give some sort of advice about being smooth and calm," explains Junior. "We've talked about patience and things like that." "There's pressure, but there's a lot of hope and investment in him. That's a big weight to bare. To try not and burden him with that and let him be himself and grow with the team is important," says Dale Senior.
But to guys like Terrell Hinson, Dale Junior is just a guy with all the qualities of a great friend. "I can tell him anything and know it will go no further. I can talk to him about anything. He'll give me his honest opinion and he tells the truth. He's fun and we just click," says Hinson. As the media shines its spotlight on the bright new rising talents of NASCAR, hopefully we'll remember to see these young drivers not only in the column of their most recent wins and losses and by their qualifying order and their sponsors, but as real people with all the human emotions of an average guy. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. above all else is the real thing.
Eyes To See- (Lyrics by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.)
I wish she had eyes to see what the future holds for me.
Are my thoughts worth the pain?
As time goes by what will remain?
My hands, they shake, my mind is numb.
She does not speak, this love is young.
As life goes on and time rolls by...
and still I sit here and wonder why
I want her.
This man you see knows not of me
He cannot conceive my misery.
For his eyes, he...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pictures