Dale Earnhardt Jr. remembers looking through old books in hopes of finding his father’s name in them.
“When I was a little kid, I loved to sit around and look through stats and find out how my father did in a certain race,” Earnhardt says. “It always made me feel good. Now, I feel like maybe I’m starting to make a mark. It’ll be many years, if ever, before I even come close to being compared to my father. I just want to be one of those drivers in that book. And maybe one day I’ll have a son, and he can look back in old books and see my name in there somewhere.”
“Little E” has already made a name for himself behind the wheel of his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, and hopes to continue the legacy of his father during the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t been as critical as his dad of restrictor-plate racing. “I don’t have the knowledge of what it’s like to race without a restrictor plate.”
The Intimidator II has a knack for rising to the occasion, as he demonstrated in 2001.
First he won at Daytona in the series’ first race there since his father was killed in the season-opening Daytona 500. Then he won at Dover, Del., in the return of Winston Cup after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Then there was Oct. 21, 2001. Just more than a year after the Intimidator recorded his final career victory at Talladega, along came his son on the same track, driving like his dad and winning like his dad.
“After all the people talked about how the Daytona race was fixed, it made that one even sweeter,” Earnhardt says. “The car was awesome, and to come to Talladega and win where my dad last won gives you a good feeling.”
“We’ve won three races under some adverse and incredible circumstances,” he says. “Maybe there’s somebody smarter than us who knows the answer, but I don’t.”