Happy 9-Year Anniversary to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IApril 2, 2009

Nine years ago today, Apr. 2, 2000, the son of seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt announced his arrival on the NASCAR scene.

On that day the Sprint Cup Series was at the Texas Motor Speedway and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was making his 12th career start for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated in his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.

After starting fourth in the event, Earnhardt Jr. dominated the event leading six times for 106 of the 334 laps. At times his lead was nearly a whole straightaway ahead of the second place car.

Nothing could slow the Bud team down that day.

"We've got an awesome car," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It did whatever I asked it to do. We didn't change nothing all day long. That tells you how good a race car we had."

Earnhardt Jr. was so strong during the race, that at times his crew chief, Tony Eury Sr., had to tell him to slow down and take it easy on the equipment.

"It's hard to keep him slowed down when the car's good," Eury said. "He wants to show it. We just keep him toned down all the time. He's like a wild horse."

The Son's first victory came 21 years and one day after his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr. won his first career race on Apr. 1 1979 at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Earnhardt Jr. won in his 12th career start while it took Earnhardt Sr. 16 tries to break into the win column.

As Earnhardt Jr. celebrated after taking the checkered flag nearly six seconds ahead of second place finisher Jeff Burton, Earnhardt Sr. climbed out of his machine and quickly headed for victory lane.

When his son drove in, he was the first one to lean in the car to share a family moment.

"He told me he loved me and then he said he just wanted to make sure I took the time to enjoy this and realize what we accomplished today," Earnhardt Jr. said.

"That was pretty cool on his part to be thinking about that at that particular time. This was a product of his work. He's proud of his son, but he's also proud that he built this team and the team won the race."

He gave his son a hug and then stood in the background as his son got all the attention that he worked so hard to deserve.

The then 25-year-old Rookie had also won his first career Nationwide Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway and it's a track that he continues to run well at.

"I'll tell you, he's something else," Earnhardt Sr. said. "He was talking about coming to Texas and winning his first Winston Cup race. I knew the kid could do it. This kid has worked hard, had a good car and drove a good race."

The party in victory lane was enough to brighten a day that was cloudy and cold all day as Earnhardt Jr. soaked in his victory as he climbed on top of his Chevy and threw his arms in the air as confetti rained down on he and his victorious crew.

"Yeah, I was excited," he said said. "I'm still excited. This is amazing."


Source: SportsIllustrated.com