LOUDON, N.H. - He isn't just Generation X; Dale Earnhardt Jr. is Generation Next. He isn't
just the Second Coming; he's the Second Coming of the Intimidator. A dyed-in-the-wool
racer just like his father, Dale Sr., and his late grandfather, Ralph, Dale Jr. - or
''Little E'' as he has come to be known in NASCAR Winston Cup circles - has emerged as the
heir to the family throne once his father, a seven-time Winston Cup champion, steps down
and focuses his attention on being a full-time owner.
And when the torch is finally passed, Junior's crown will rest - fashionably tipped to one
side, no doubt - atop his way cool, blond-dyed, Caesar-cut hairdo.
If Dale Earnhardt Sr., a huge fan of Brooks and Dunn, is a little bit country (and
western), then his 24-year-old namesake, an avid drummer, is certainly a product of the
music of his times; an amalgam of rock 'n' roll ... grunge ... alternative ... hip-hop ...
and rap. Junior's eclectic musical tastes range from Nirvana to Pearl Jam to Limp Bizkit
to Puff Daddy and to Bridge, an upstart group of alternative musicians from North Carolina
whom Earnhardt befriended and has actively promoted.
But when it came to Earnhardt's own much-anticipated Winston Cup debut in the Coca-Cola
600 May 30 in Charlotte, N.C., the distant drum beat became more intense with each day
that led to his first start in the No. 8 Budweiser-sponsored Chevrolet Monte Carlo fielded
by his father's team, Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make his second of five Winston Cup apprenticeship runs Sunday in
the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. But he'll arrive a bit banged
up with the chipped right shoulder blade he suffered in a wall crash during a practice run
for last Sunday's DieHard 250 Busch Series race in West Allis, Wis.
''I'm still a little sore now, but I'm ready to go,'' said Earnhardt, who started from the
back of the pack and finished third. ''The worst thing about getting hurt was spending the
three days in therapy that I could have used doing stuff I wanted to do.''
Like getting in some practice time on his drum set.
Still, Little E's meteoric rise from reigning Busch Series champion and current points
leader to the Winston Cup stage was not unlike a garage rock musician making his live
concert debut at an all-star jam session before a packed 100,000-seat stadium.
''My dad and all my family and fans were all like, `Hell, yeah. This is the weekend we're
finally going to get to see Junior run,''' Earnhardt recalled during a break in an NHIS
test session last month. ''I was like, `I'm finally going to get to race,' and everybody
had a good attitude about it.''
Everybody, it seemed, except his father.
After Dale Jr. turned a tight lap around the bumpy, 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte to earn the
No. 8 position in the starting grid, outperforming his father, who qualified 14th,
reporters rushed to Earnhardt Sr. for a comment. But the Intimidator was surprisingly
lukewarm and not at all effusive in his praise of his son's accomplishment.
''It went a hundred times better than I expected it to go, but we just knew that from
testing we had a pretty good package for that [qualifying run],'' said Dale Jr., who wound
up finishing 16th after running up front for a time during the grueling 600-mile race. ''I
was really glad we accomplished that because there were so many opportunities for mistakes
in that qualifying run. So when it was over with, I was like, `Yeah,''' - he pumped his
fist - ''`That's what I was expecting.'''
As for his father's reaction?
''Yeah, he was a little standoffish,'' Dale Jr. acknowledged. ''He's just very careful
about that. I don't know if he does it out of aggravation, because people pester him with
questions about `What do you think about Dale Jr.? What do you think about Dale Jr?' Or
maybe he does it because he feels like it's going to put pressure on me, but I don't think
''I don't know why he feels that way, but he's just very careful about what he says about
me, and what he does about me. I don't know, but he just doesn't want me to get
overconfident or whatever.''
Said Earnhardt Sr., ''He surprised a lot of people, including me. 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.''
That explains why Earnhardt has been so protective of his son's career, and why it was
decided to carefully choose five races to acclimate Dale Jr. to the rough-and-tumble,
dog-eat-dog environment of the Winston Cup circuit before he began a full-time campaign
''You hope your kids turn out OK and then when they take up what you do, you worry about
'em because of the danger factor,'' Dale Sr. said. ''I didn't tell him no, but just let
them do what they've got to do. I guess he's watched enough tapes of his granddaddy to
learn how to drive.
''He looks like he's been doing it for a while. He's got good rhythm and feel for the
cars. He's got confidence and he really communicates well with the crew. If he stays
focused, then whatever happens happens and, hopefully, the championships will come.''
But Dale Jr. realizes that for that to be a possibility, many factors have to fall into
place. You have to have the right situation, the right owner, the right team, the right
sponsor and, most important, the right equipment.
It all had to be just right, especially if he was to shoulder the awesome responsibility
of carrying on his family's name.
''I just didn't want to become a failure too quickly or to be labeled a failure too
early,'' Dale Jr. said, citing his biggest concerns about making the jump to Winston Cup.
''There's a lot of people out there, a lot of race car drivers who can accomplish things
but will never get the chance. There's some drivers who may be really, really good race
car drivers, but got the wrong equipment or got involved with the wrong team and were not
''Those are the things I was worried about. I didn't want to be labeled a loser or a no
talent. But [driving for his father] feels natural and it feels comfortable and,
hopefully, it can continue at this pace. I feel ready and I feel willing to do it. I just
want everybody here to have the same winning attitude.''
This story ran on page E01 of the Boston Globe on
Blk3GM's Dale Earnhardt Site was born on
July 26, 1998 and is owned and maintained by Gary Harris. This site is a
tribute to "NASCAR's Greatest Driver" and his up and coming son. We are
not affiliated with any official Team, Sponsors, Media Group or NASCAR. This site is
solely for entertainment purposes. Information and statistic's on this site have
been collected from various NASCAR related sites on the internet, from Winston Cup Scene,
Newspapers, Television and our personal experience at Winston Cup and Busch Grand National
races. All statistics are believed to be accurate at the time they are updated but
cannot be guaranteed.