Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be at the NASCAR Hall of Fame this afternoon to unveil the throwback paint scheme he will race on the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend.
This year, of course, is Earnhardt’s final full-time season as a driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but you can bet his influence will be felt long after he steps out of the cockpit. You can also bet that he will be voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility.
Here are three reasons why:
Earnhardt has 26 Cup race victories, including a pair of Daytona 500 wins and a victory in the NASCAR All-Star Race. There is no driver who has won more races than Earnhardt and is eligible for the Hall who isn’t already in.
Earnhardt has the same number of victories as NASCAR Hall of Fame member Fred Lorenzen, and more than current Hall members Benny Parsons, Joey Weatherly, Terry Labonte and Curtis Turner. As a member of the Hall Voting Panel, I would have no hesitation whatsoever about voting Earnhardt in just for what he’s done on the track.
Off the Track
Earnhardt has been NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for the last 14 consecutive seasons. His fan base is by far the biggest in NASCAR and the most passionate, too. Earnhardt has used his popularity to engage those diehard fans through the savvy use of social media. From his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast to his more than 2 million Twitter followers and his weekly Periscope race reviews, Earnhardt has been the gold standard of NASCAR social media.
If, as expected, Earnhardt winds up going into broadcasting after hanging up his driving gloves, he will follow in the footsteps of several NASCAR Hall of Fame members who have done likewise, including Ned and Dale Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace.
Earnhardt and sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller have built a championship-caliber NASCAR XFINITY Series team that continues to win races and run competitively. Since JR Motorsports was founded in 2004, the team has won 34 XFINITY races. Heading into this weekend, JR Motorsports drivers Elliott Sadler, William Byron and Justin Allgaier hold down the top three spots in the points. You can’t do better than that.