Coca-Cola 600 will be
a Family Affair for Earnhardts
Thu, May 13, 1999
RICHMOND, Va. (SCN Thursday, May 13, 1999) - With some good fortune, "Little E"
will be on dad's tail on May 30 at the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in
That good fortune consists of Dale Earnhardt Jr. making the field for his first Winston
Cup race in a planned five-event "get acquainted" session before he moves from
the Busch Grand National Series to the big show full-time next season.
And no one will be happier to see Earnhardt Jr. in his rear-view mirror than his father,
seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.
"He surprised a lot of people, including me," his father said. "We knew he
could drive a race car, but until you start winning on the racetrack and see how you react
to the daily pressure, it's hard to know what you've got inside you."
There will be a lot of pressure leading up to "The Imitator's" first Winston Cup
event. Charlotte Motor Speedway is just down the road from Earnhardt Jr.'s Kannapolis
home, where he still lives in a motor home on his father's property.
"It's going to be like a seven-day road trip for a basketball team," he said.
"There's a lot that goes on at Charlotte, a lot of distractions before the race. I
can't let that stuff get in the way of my job."
His first job will be to shun the pressure and get his car into the starting lineup.
"I have to go there and make the race," he said. "I'm still worried about
that. Nobody else will admit it, but I've had a couple of nightmares about not making it
and letting people down - my team, my sponsors, my family."
There's a lot invested in Earnhardt Jr. After winning a few races in the Busch Series,
Earnhardt Jr. was hired by his father last year to run the Dale Earnhardt Inc. entry in
the junior series. Little E responded by winning seven races and the Busch Series
championship, then signed a contract with Budweiser for a whopping $10 million even before
running his first Winston Cup race.
However, on May 30th, his time will come, ready or not.
"I know I have a lot of people watching me and wondering if I'm going to make it or
flop," he said, a serious expression clouding his open, friendly face. "Some
people want me to be a big star because they pull for my dad and want me to be like him.
"Some people want me to fail because my dad's had so much success. But, I'm Dale
Earnhardt Jr. I'm not my dad, and I have to be who I am."