DARLINGTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 3: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr. pose for a photograph after the Pepsi Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway on September 3, 2000 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)
Melinda Lorge, Rare.us
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took a moment Saturday morning to pay tribute to his father on what would have been Dale Earnhardt’s 66th birthday.
It had already been quite a week for the younger Earnhardt. He announced Tuesday that he would be retiring at the end of the 2017 NASCAR season and he celebrated the creation of The Dale and Amy Earnhardt Activity Room at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, alongside his wife, Amy.
Besides Dale Earnhardt’s fans, fellow drivers and other members of the Earnhardt family also paid tribute to the NASCAR legend.
“Thinking about my pawpaw today on his 66th birthday,” Jeffrey Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt’s grandson, wrote on his Instagram page. “Some (heroes) wore capes, he wore a fire suit. Big inspiration in my life.”
After 18 seasons and more than 600 races behind the wheel, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will bring his NASCAR Cup Series driving career to a close at the conclusion of 2017. Today, he shared the news with members of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team.
The fan favorite and two-time Daytona 500 champion will discuss his decision in a press conference this afternoon. He will be joined by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, for whom Earnhardt has driven since 2008. The two first met about the driver’s decision on March 29.
Earnhardt, who will turn 43 in October, made his first career Cup Series start on May 30, 1999, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since then, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has captured 26 points-paying Cup race wins and been voted by fans as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver a record 14 consecutive years. He has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times.
Now in the midst of his 18th full-time season at the elite Cup level, Earnhardt made his 600th career series start on March 26 at Fontana, California. He will compete in his final NASCAR Cup Series race on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hendrick Motorsports will announce plans for its 2018 team alignment at a later date.
A lucky veteran got a chance to ride in the Goodyear blimp at the Daytona International Speedway, but didn’t realize that one of the people manning the blimp was NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Paul Siverson is a Marine Corps veteran who has served in Vietnam, Somalia and Desert Storm. Siverson also volunteers with Charlotte-based NCServes, where he helps veterans and service members transition back to their civilian lives.
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“I always wanted to be a Marine. I came for two and stayed for 30. That’s what I tell people,” Siverson said.
Siverson is also a diehard NASCAR and Earnhardt fan.
To celebrate Siverson’s life of service, Goodyear offered him and his wife a free trip to the Daytona 500 and a ride aboard the blimp.
Yet, talk began swirling this week after Dale’s comments about racing in this year’s Daytona 500 and just what it would take for him to consider retirement.
“Hell, yeah … I would definitely not want to come back and try to race anymore if I won the championship … I’d be outta' here,” Dale said during a pre-Daytona 500 press conference on Feb. 22, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “You know, I’ve always wanted to win a championship so badly. We’ve worked so hard to come back from this injury. To come back and win a championship, it would be hard not to hang it up.”
There is no doubt that Dale’s recent marriage and the health scare from last year has changed the way he looks at life these days.
“My eyes were jumping around in my head real bad, just walking down the street, or riding in a car,” Dale said. “A road sign was jumping around so I couldn’t even read it. I was scared to death that I was going to be stuck with that all my life.”
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