Gordon, Johnson, Harvick and Busch are all names that even the casual NASCAR fan recognizes, but there’s one name that stands out above them all: Earnhardt.
The last name Earnhardt transcends our sport.
Ask most any American who Dale Earnhardt Jr. is and they will most likely tell you that they have at least heard of him.
Heck, I’m sure that more people will be able to tell you who drives the No. 88 car in NASCAR than can tell you who the 45th President of the United States is. The name is simply iconic.
And quite frankly, that’s both a blessing and a curse.
NASCAR has to be shaking in their boots right now. They lose Dale Jr. at the end of the 2017 season. He’s the perennial fan favorite and has won the Most Popular Driver Award 14 times … in a row.
On the flip side of the coin, the folks at NBC Sports have to be elated, as Earnhardt will join their commentary team for the 2018 season.
But what will NASCAR do? NASCAR built it’s sport around Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s rough-and-tumble, and many times controversial, driving style in the 1990s.
When Dale Sr. was killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, NASCAR and its fans turned to Dale Jr. to fill the void left by Senior’s death. The sport hasn’t been without an Earnhardt since 1975.
With all that said, you might think I’m going to say 2018 looks bleak for NASCAR, right?
Wrong. NASCAR won’t be without an Earnhardt next year.
Many of you may know that Jeffrey Earnhardt has been competing in NASCAR’s premier series for the last few years. Jeffrey is the second son of Kerry Earnhardt, as well as Dale Jr.’s nephew. He plans to return to the No. 33 Circle Sport Racing seat for next year.
The problem is: Jeffrey has the magical Earnhardt name, but far from showing any magic behind the wheel.
Oh, what is NASCAR to do?
The answer is a ‘Who’, and his name is Bobby Dale Earnhardt.
Who is Bobby Dale Earnhardt you ask? Bobby is Kerry Earnhardt’s first-born son and Dale Sr.’s grandson. He’s Dale Jr.’s nephew too, right? Yes … but he is definitely Dale Sr.’s grandson.
Bobby Dale is the Earnhardt fans have been waiting for since 2001. He started his racing career on … lawn mowers.
Yes, I’m dead serious.
These crazy things race at speeds well above 75 miles per hour on local short tracks, and drivers have to pretty much be half crazy to even attempt to beat and bang on these things like they do.
Bobby Dale won the 2013 ARCA Truck Series Rookie of the Year Award, and this season has made two starts to-date in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He debuted in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Int’l Raceway, where he finished 34th in the No. 40 MBM Motorsports Chevrolet, and followed that with a 31st-place showing at Kansas Speedway in the Kansas Lottery 300.
But wait, there’s more.
Believe it or not, Bobby Dale is making his racing career happen without a dime of family help or influence. He’s just like his grandfather in many ways. He works a regular day job, just like you and I do during the week, and he also turns wrenches on the car at the track — a skill that’s rare for a driver these days.
MBM Motorsports may not be a NASCAR powerhouse, but they are giving a driver who has talent before a last name a fair shot at his dream.
Bobby Dale has fought for his chance and brought nothing more than tenacity, blood, sweat and tears to the table.
What’s spooky is Bobby Dale not only resembles his grandfather, he drives like him, and he is quietly making his way into the sport exactly the same way.
So, as we bid Dale Jr. a fond farewell, let’s welcome a new Earnhardt … Bobby Dale Earnhardt.
He’s fixin’ to put on quite a show.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Andy DeLay is a career law enforcement officer for Clearwater, Florida who carries a passion for motorsports at both the local and national levels. He is an avid iRacer who also spends time away from the virtual circuit at local tracks.
In addition, DeLay is a host of the long-time Burning Rubber Radio Show on the Performance Motorsports Network, the wireless mobile radio affiliate of Race Chaser Online, as well as an onsite reporter for PMN in various capacities.
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