The Top 10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins & Standout Moments
After 603 races spanning 19 seasons, one of NASCAR racing’s biggest legends is about to hang it up. Son of Dale Earnhardt Sr., a.k.a. “The Intimidator,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. (affectionately known to his fans as just Junior) has officially announced that he’ll retire following the 2017 NASCAR season.
According to a press release put out by Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt Jr. has explained:
“Having influence over my exit only became meaningful when it started to seem most unlikely… as you know, I missed a few races last year, and during that time, I had to face the realization that my driving career may have already ended without me so much as getting a vote on the table. Of course, in life we’re not promised a vote, and that’s especially true in racing.”1
The two-time Daytona 500 champion has been a circuit superstar for nearly 20 years, even while living in the shadow of his famous father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., who died in a car wreck during the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Because the Daytona wins occurred exactly 10 years apart (first in 2004, second in 2014), Earnhardt Jr. has earned the nickname “Pied Piper” of Daytona.
He’s also won the Most Popular Driver Award 14 times (from 2003 through 2016). Earnhardt Jr. drives the No. 88 Chevrolet SS sponsored by Hendrick Motorsport for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, as well as in some Xfinity Series events.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Top 10 Most Storied Wins
Dale Earnhardt Jr. lays claim to 26 major Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins, in which he placed in the top 10 (of 253). He has also earned 24 major NASCAR Xfinity Series wins, placing in the top 10 of 90 of those races.
Here is a look back at what many believe are his Top 10 wins of all time:
Earnhardt Jr. wins the LifeLock 400 on June 15, 2008 at the Michigan International Speedway. This marks his first victory under the Hendrick Motorsport team. Some even believe he may have coasted to his victory on fumes because he stretched his fuel run over the regulation length of 55 laps. He reportedly had to shut off his engine a few times just to get to the green-white checked flag at the finish.
Earnhardt Jr. earns his fourth straight win at Talladega in The Aaron’s 499 on April 6, 2003 (his past wins occurred on Oct. 2001, April 2002 and Oct. 2002). On the morning of the race, two of his crew members reportedly oversleep and got a late start. Then, Earnhardt Jr. was forced to the back of the pack when he had to get an oil change. During the race, he bent up the front of his car while driving on the grass to avoid a crash. Nevertheless, he still managed to pull it out in legendary NASCAR fashion, squeaking by Matt Kenseth for the win.
Earnhardt Jr. wins the Subway Jalapeno 250 on July 2, 2010 at Dayton International Speedway. He was driving the yellow and blue No. 3 car sponsored by Wrangler. Junior drove the tribute car to honor his father’s legacy. After the race, he reportedly said, “Victory Lane’s like when you’re a little kid and you’ve got a tree house or you and your buddies got a clubhouse in the woods. That’s what Victory Lane is to me, and I like going there. You miss it really bad, but you know it’s there and you can get back there again if you try really hard.” All the fans in the stands were so elated with his win that they jumped to their feet and held up three fingers, which is what Junior did as he drove around the track celebrating. It was his first victory since 2008.1
Junior wins the Winston All-Star Race on May 20, 2000 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. The final 10 laps began with a pile up of cars, which give the Budweiser team the fire it needed to finish hard. Earnhardt Jr. didn’t think he could win without fresh tires, even though he was in 3rd place. So, he pulled over to the pit and took a chance. He had to maneuver and past two NASCAR legends, Dale Jarrett, whose car was smoking, and his father, to win the checkered flag. His dad, always one of Junior’s biggest competitors and supporters, was there to give him a big hug at the winner’s circle.
Earnhardt Jr. breaks a 143 winless streak by winning the Quicken Loans 400 on June 17, 2012 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The win came nearly four years to the day of his last win, which also occurred at Michigan International Speedway. It occurred in “The Dark Knight Rises” painted car, with Junior edging out Tony Stewart by just 5.393 seconds.2 Fans were so riled up that runner-up Stewart even came into the media center and stated, “This isn’t a national holiday, guys.”
On February 23, 2014 , Earnhard Jr.’s earned his second Daytona 500 win at Daytona International Speedway. This Daytona 500 witnessed torrential rain, which delayed the race for a total of six
Earnhardt Jr. wins the MBNA Cal Ripken, Jr. 400 at the Dover International Speedway on Sept. 23, 2001. This was a significant event because it was the first race after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The stands were full of American flag-waving race fans. Junior drove No. 8 to victory that day, and it was the second of three wins that year. He dominated the race leading 93 of the 400 laps during the race. After his win, Junior drove his car around the track holding the American flag up to remember those who were lost in the 9/11 attacks.
This was Earnhard Jr.’s first Daytona 500 win, occurring on February 15, 2004. Junior had been labeled a spoiled brat, who was acting immature and partying too much. His critics chided him for caring more about magazine covers and partying in the basement bar know as Club E. Junior fought his demons hard that day to roll past Tony Stewart with 20 laps to go. To further put his critics in place, he won his next six races. During his celebration lap around the track, he did cookies on the grass field inside of the Dayton International Speedway track. He also received a congratulatory call from President George W. Bush.
Earnhard Jr. takes his first Career Winston Cup Win in the DIRECT TV 500 on April 2, 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway. During this race, occurring during his rookie season, Earnhard Jr.was reportedly battling flu in. That didn’t stop him from leading 106 laps, including the last 53. He was driving his No. 8, a Budweiser sponsored car. “I knew the kid could do it,” said his father. “The kid has worked hard.”4
Earnhard Jr. wins the Pepsi 400 on July 7, 2001 at Daytona International Speedway. This was Junior’s first win after his father’s passing. Some credit the lessons he learned from his father as empowering him to pull out an emotional victory. The win must have been overwhelming for Junior, as his father had just raced on the same track six months earlier. He finished with a 193-lap lead.
1 “Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes mature decision and NASCAR fans are grateful” published in Los Angeles Daily News, April 27, 2017
2 “Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins at Daytona, Honors Father” published in Zimbio, July 3, 2010.
3 “Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Unforgettable Michigan International Speedway Moments” published in Michigan Auto Racing, April 25, 2017.
4 “Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Top 10 Victories” published in NASCAR.com, Feb. 27, 2014.