Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A by-the-numbers look at the popular driver's career
The popular driver, who is retiring from full-time competition after Sunday's race at Homestead, leaves behind a rich legacy in the sport.
For Dale Earnhardt Jr., this is it — Sunday's race at Homestead is his final event as a full-time NASCAR driver. It seems just like yesterday he broke onto the racing scene as a young driver in the shadow of his father, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. Despite the extreme pressure that came with the famous last name, the driver affectionately known as "Junior" showed unusual maturity in dealing with the media, and in handling the expectations of fans and even fellow drivers.
In the process, Earnhardt carved his own rich legacy in the sport. Sure, Junior might return in the future to compete in select races, but Homestead will close a chapter in his life. Whatever his future holds, whether as a team owner or in another role, a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame awaits him in his first year of eligibility in 2021.
Here's a by-the-numbers look at Earnhardt's remarkable career.
631: Career NASCAR Cup starts by Earnhardt
Earnhardt made his first career start May 30, 1999 in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He started eighth and finished 16th in the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet sponsored by Budweiser.
8,234: Laps Earnhardt has led during his career
In Earnhardt's best season, 2004, he posted career highs in both laps led (1,131) and victories (six).
15: NASCAR Most Popular Driver Awards won by Earnhardt
That's assuming he wins this year's award — and you could bet the house on that one. By contrast, his father only won the most popular driver honors once, posthumously in 2001. Junior has taken home those honors every year since 2003.
2: Daytona 500 victories
Junior won NASCAR's most prestigious race in 2004 and 2014, one of 11 drivers to have won the race more than once. He also won the sport's All-Star race once, in 2000.
$410 million: Earnhardt's estimated career earnings
Earnhardt won't have to shop at thrift stores and look for senior discounts in his golden years. Forbes estimated earlier this year Earnhardt has earned roughly $410 million in his career, from salary, endorsements and his portion of race winnings and merchandise licensing.
10: Career NASCAR Cup poles by Earnhardt
Surprisingly, he hasn't won a pole since 2009, and has only started one race out front since the 2007 season.
26: Career NASCAR Cup victories by Earnhardt
That's assuming, of course, Junior doesn't go out with a huge curtain call by winning today at Homestead — and wouldn't that be an awesome ending? — or in a future one-off appearance. Earnhardt's first career victory came at Texas Motor Speedway in 2000, and his most recent victory came at Phoenix in 2015. He has also collected 149 top-five finishes and 260 top-10s.
7: Number of times Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 in the final NASCAR Cup standings
Earnhardt finished in the top five in the standings four times, with a career-best finish of third in the 2003 season.