Five Reasons Why Dale Earnhardt Jr Is Still NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver
He has the most laid back personality in NASCAR
As good of personalities as NASCAR drivers have, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s personality is by far the most laid back. He's known as the quiet guy in the garage and he's truly soft spoken which is something fans have grown accustomed to over the past few years. He may not be the most successful driver, but he's certainly focused especially during his post-race interviews where he can even use his redneck language when he's mad.
He's won some of the biggest races on the schedule
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is simply a big-race driver. Basically, he's pretty clutch, especially on super-speedways as most fans know. His big-time winning started at the Pepsi 400 in 2001, the first race at Daytona after his father's passing which was simply one of the most emotional victories in the sport's history. He continued his winning ways with another win at Talladega later that year which helped ease the pain from what happened just months before. Oh by the way, he won The Winston, now the Sprint All-Star Race, in his rookie season. In 2004, Earnhardt Jr. won the elusive Daytona 500 which he's been chasing throughout his career, just like his father was, proving he was able to win the race that his father wanted to until 1998.
Race fans want him to win and he finally proved that in 2012
After breaking the worst winless streak of his career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was finally able to break through for a win during the 2012 season at Michigan, the same track where he won his last race in 2009. Fans have been waiting to see him finally win and that he did. Earnhardt Jr. proved that he can race competitively with his Hendrick Motorsports team after fans and the media were beginning to criticize his talent over the course of the past few years. Owning a Nationwide Series team can't hurt him either as he receives fan support whenever he helps out a driver that needs a few good runs such as his hiring of Regan Smith for the full 2013 schedule.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is simply the most marketable driver in all of sports
The amount of endorsements that Dale Earnhardt Jr. does is just ridiculous at this point. Fans have probably been a little fed up of the overuse of his face/voice/appearance in advertisements. The man is all over the place at this point. However, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. As long as those endorsements don't go away, neither will Earnhardt Jr.'s popularity. His net worth is in the range of roughly $25-40 million per year which is the most for any NASCAR driver. The man even has his own brand of potato chips coming out, how much marketable can a race car driver from North Carolina be>
He's the son of one of the greatest legends of all time
The main reason Dale Earnhardt Jr. is as popular as he is that he's the son of The Intimidator. Dale Earnhardt Sr. helped take his son's career to the next level. Heck, the guy even created a race team just to make sure that his son would be successful, and that he was. Even though Dale Earnhardt Incorporated didn't last after Earnhardt Jr. left the team, it was still an organization that won three Daytona 500's in four seasons. When Earnhardt Sr. passed away in 2001, most of his fans became Junior's fans and they have stuck through since then which has helped tremendously with his popularity.
There is always something that NASCAR fans must talk about. For the last 10-years or so, that something has been Dale Earnhardt Jr. Before him, it was Bill Elliott. Even before him, there was “The King,” Richard Petty. It’s a trend that occurs in the NASCAR world with a transition of roughly every 15-20 years. There’s always one driver that fans either love or hate.
In a sport with an increasing fan base spread out across the world, it’s safe to say that the over-whelming majority of fans like Dale Earnhardt Jr. His career has given him several reasons to keep going, especially after his late father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., passed away in an event that he finished second within. Earnhardt Jr. has been through a lot in his 16, now 17, years in NASCAR.
He’s hasn’t lived up to the expectations which were created once he entered the Sprint Cup Series after winning back-to-back Busch Series championships in 1998 and 1999. The man is incredible on super-speedway tracks as his drafting skills are by far up to par. However, he’s been through some on track struggles over the past few years.
In 2012, Earnhardt Jr. made a life-changing move as he stepped out of the car and missed his first Sprint Cup Series race since his pre-rookie year in 1999 where he ran only five races. The move was due to his second concussion within a few weeks, showing race fans that he simply didn’t want to risk a life-ending injury on the race track that could haunt friends, family and fans for the rest of their lives, just like what happened with his father’s death.
Earnhardt Jr. may not have the best on-track talent. However, after a rough career, he’s been able to fight through and prove to race fans that he and his Hendrick Motorsports team are capable of winning races and running competitively on a weekly basis.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.