Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a Different Light

Roberta CowanContributor IDecember 2, 2009

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 13, 2009 in Avondale, AZ.  (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
Darrell Ingham/Getty Images

Much like Errol Flynn, he has a swagger.

He’s got the bad boy looks and attitude, like Clark Gable.

His fans swarm him, and he is almost uncomfortable with his position in the popularity hierarchy. Yet, he moves comfortably and confidently, with knowledge and confidence, changing the world around him much like Frank Lloyd Wright changed the world that we live in.

Hounded by naysayers who question his talent and his place at the highest level of NASCAR's elite, stating he is there because of his father's name, he can boast back-to-back championships in the ultra competitive Busch Grand National Series, a Daytona 500 win, and a victory in the race of the elite all-stars, then called the Winston.

Most spend a lifetime attempting to achieve one of those accolades. He has accomplished them all in 11 years.

One would expect this man to be a master of attention and celebrity. He is instead a quiet and gentle spirit whose gifts to others far exceed the gifts he has received.

Best known for the crowds of attention-seeking fans and daring pursuits on the race track, his popularity and marketability is the envy of millions.

His knowledge of history, both of the sport and the world, add a surprising twist to the man whose business prowess finds him sitting at the head of many extremely profitable companies. Companies whose focuses are vastly diverse, including racing, entertainment, culinary, real estate, automotive products, gaming accessories, and Internet gaming.

His success in business ventures away from the race track has not only garnered him respect from the business world, but also allows him to employ many of his family members and to turn his vast marketability into a future for not only himself, but his family as well.

Oddly enough the real Dale Jr. is a shy and quiet man whose philanthropic work through his foundation for underprivileged and at risk children includes support of children's causes across the country.

He is a true example of the hero whose goal is to give back to those who face the same challenges he did as a boy, whether that is through time spent with the Make a Wish children or giving to schools and hospitals the financial support that is their life blood.

Even in the midst of a schedule of obligations that would harry even the most steadfast performer, Dale Jr. has his eye on the future.

His dedication and affection for children is returned in spades as they tell their hero, "I love you Junior. I want to be just like you when I grow up." He is strong enough to dry their tears and is courageous enough to tell them, "I love you, too, Buddy," and when he says it he means it. They know it. He knows it and all around him know it.

He is in tune with the mark he wants to leave on the sport and the world. That mark is one of respect and kindness. His name may be Dale Earnhardt, but it is Junior. Although a much softer and kinder version of his father, he is no less intelligent and no less driven to succeed, whether that is winning on the race track or winning in life.

He has, as the truest champions of mankind do, combined the best of the old—the magnetic, daring, and bad boy appearances carried off with a swagger of romantic style and flair—with the new age of change and technology, to create his own style.

The world has watched him grow on television into a unique and determined but unwilling hero, who, like the old school heroes before him, places more emphasis on the needs of the future than on the appearances of today.

Hemingway once said that "What a man gives of himself is more defining than what he shows to the world."

No more accurate description could be made of the man who is as comfortable in jeans and a slow pace around his property as he is in a billboard of a uniform going 200 mph.

Whether in the board room, on the track, or hanging out on the porch, he proves that every man's dream and every woman's fantasy is possible.

You can live in 2009 and still be a mix of Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. Heroes still exist in our fast paced world, but the truest of them walk with the knowledge that they are merely the sum of all those who believe in them, and that their true strength comes from those that they have helped to find their confidence, regardless of their age.