Dale Earnhardt Jr. & Kyle Petty: Two Sons Living With Their Father's Names

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IOctober 16, 2008

There are plenty of men who helped shape and make NASCAR the great sport that it is today.

Two of the most memorable men where also two of the most successful: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Both Petty and Earnhardt each had seven championships and won at just about every track on the circuit. They won and accomplished everything there was. Petty retired with two hundred career wins and Earnhardt reaching seventy-six total.

They dominated in their own way before leaving NASCAR in the hands of their children to continue the family legacy and winning ways.

However, for Kyle Petty and Dale Earnhardt Jr., they have gotten the complete opposite spectrum in terms of fan base and success.

Kyle Petty was the heir to Richard's success and was expected to follow in his father's footsteps to the top of NASCAR. Instead, the only thing Kyle followed was his father into the business world by co-owning Petty Enterprises.

His career appeared to be on the right track with ten straight top ten point finishes and two career wins.

Then things started to take a tumble and in 1993. Since then, he hasn't had a top ten points finish and his last visit to victory lane was thirteen years ago.

Sadly, Kyle appears more of a field filler than actual contender.

What went wrong?

It seems unthinkable that the son of a seven-time champion isn't even on the map.

When Kyle arrived on the scene maybe it brought relief to Richard Petty fans. Kyle would be the second coming after Richard's retirement, allowing them to simply shift their cheers to another Petty.

If that happened, they must have been sorely disappointed.

Would it be better if maybe dear old Dad could just spit the son out and have him perfectly molded?

Some felt that Dale Earnhardt Jr. should be just like his father in every single way. A few even went so far as to say that he's living off his father's name.


Where as Kyle Petty rides around week after week at the back and is only in the car because his name's on the door, Earnhardt Jr. has accomplished things.

Earnhardt Jr., whether he wanted to or not, inherited his father's fans. He also inherited his haters.

Earnhardt Jr. has won in the Nationwide Series and has two championships. Kyle has neither.

Earnhardt Jr. has won the Daytona 500 and has eighteen wins where as Kyle has only eight career wins and no Daytona 500 wins.

But this is not about comparing credentials all the way down the line. It's about the pressures of trying to live up to your name, one that you didn't pick.

But Earnhardt Jr. has lived up to his name in his way. Rick Hendrick hires winners and contenders.

Kyle Petty's best days, if he had any, are behind him. It seems now that even the company he owns doesn't want him, with rumors they are undecided about next season.

If we're jumping off Earnhardt Jr. bandwagon and saying his success is only because of his father, then it's time to do the same to Kyle, because there's no difference between the life that either has had.