The date: June 15, 2008
This is a date that Junior Nation hasn’t forgotten. June 15, 2008 marked Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points win, a year almost to the exact day, June 13, 2007, when Junior announced he had signed a five-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kyle Busch. Earnhardt expressed that his decision was based entirely on his desires to achieve his career goal of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, and he would not be able to achieve that goal while driving for DEI. Earnhardt Jr. said that unless he could gain majority ownership of DEI, he was not confident in the organization’s ability to field the level of equipment that would allow him to be competitive enough to win the title. Along with leaving DEI, the new contract also meant leaving behind the familiar #8, moving into the #88, and disconnecting from his long-time sponsor, Budweiser.
This win at MIS allowed Junior to break his 76-race winless streak by stretching his fuel mileage to allow him to win under a caution on the last lap of a green-white-checkered.
Just recently at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt Jr. posted his 11th top-10 finish, one fewer than his entire 2011 total and is on track to reach 28 top 10s – a career best (21, in 2003 and 2004).
Yes, this win was a special win, but not just for Hendrick Motorsports, but for ALL Father’s in NASCAR Nation. Earnhardt Jr.’s win came seven years after the death of his father, NASCAR Champion and great, Dale Earnhardt. Reflecting on Father’s Day, Earnhardt Jr. said, “It’s special. You know, my daddy, he meant a lot to me. There’s a lot of people that I look up to that just happen to be great fathers themselves, role models for their sons. It means a lot to me to do well on Father’s Day. It’s a special day for my family, special for my sister. She’s very, very happy at home and in tears on the telephone, so it means a lot to her. I’m glad she’s as happy as she could possibly be today under circumstances. And it makes me feel good. I know I can’t tell my father happy Father’s Day, but I get the opportunity to wish it upon all of the other fathers out there, and I genuinely mean that when I say it, because that’s what today is all about. It’s for all of the fathers out there.”
Do you think Dale Earnhardt Jr. will repeat after a four-year lapse this Father’s Day weekend at MIS? We’ll see.
Also to note, the No. 3 RCR car will return to the track at MIS this weekend, driven by Austin Dillon with sponsor American Ethanol on board.