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Jeanne Develle

Jeanne Develle

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Arguably one of the most popular drivers on the NASCAR circuit for more than a decade, Dale Earnhardt Jr. emerged from the long shadow of his iconic father to claim a stellar record of his own, with multiple wins at the Daytona 500, Busch and Winston series, among many other races. Born Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on October 10, 1974 in Kannapolis, North Carolina, he was the son of legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt and his second wife, Brenda Gee. Dale Jr. and his siblings and step-siblings were raised in an environment steeped in racing, but did not evince much interest in the profession until his teenaged years. He purchased and shared a Late Model stock car with his brother, Kerry, and the pair raced throughout the Southeast in the early '90s; impressed by their nascent abilities, their father purchased each of them a car, which they raced at local short tracks. Earnhardt Jr. soon worked his way up from the street stock division in North Carolina to the NASCAR Model Stock Division and eventually, the NASCAR Winston Racing Series, where he claimed top honors in three consecutive races. In 1998, he raced full-time for the Busch Grand National series, winning the Busch Championship titles in 1998...

Arguably one of the most popular drivers on the NASCAR circuit for more than a decade, Dale Earnhardt Jr. emerged from the long shadow of his iconic father to claim a stellar record of his own, with multiple wins at the Daytona 500, Busch and Winston series, among many other races. Born Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on October 10, 1974 in Kannapolis, North Carolina, he was the son of legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt and his second wife, Brenda Gee. Dale Jr. and his siblings and step-siblings were raised in an environment steeped in racing, but did not evince much interest in the profession until his teenaged years. He purchased and shared a Late Model stock car with his brother, Kerry, and the pair raced throughout the Southeast in the early '90s; impressed by their nascent abilities, their father purchased each of them a car, which they raced at local short tracks. Earnhardt Jr. soon worked his way up from the street stock division in North Carolina to the NASCAR Model Stock Division and eventually, the NASCAR Winston Racing Series, where he claimed top honors in three consecutive races. In 1998, he raced full-time for the Busch Grand National series, winning the Busch Championship titles in 1998 and 1999 and competing for the first time against his father in the latter year. These successes gained Earnhardt Jr. entry into the Winston Cup circuit and scored his first win with his 12th start at the DirecTV 500 in 2000, breaking a record held by his father for the fewest starts before a win. The following year proved to be one of his most formative, both personally and professionally: his father died during the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, which placed his son at the head of his racing company and the family legacy. Realizing that he had to take charge of not only his career but this massive and well-loved entity, Earnhardt Jr. worked hard to improve his racing abilities. The results were spectacular, with wins at the 2001 Pepsi 400 and three Winston Cup races, which effectively elevated him to the top of the NASCAR game. He also developed a media-savvy attitude, striking lucrative promotional deals with products outside of the NASCAR universe like cologne and video games, as well as roles in films and television which lent greater exposure to his career and the sport as a whole. After a rocky season in 2002, during which he suffered several injuries and placed low in the ranks at several major races. But he soon returned to form, winning both the Daytona 500, the Hershey's Kisses 300 and several other races in 2004 and launching his own company, JR Motorsports. An accident that year which resulted in severe burns from a ruptured fuel line, and the loss of team driver and cousin Tony Eury Jr. to Michael Waltrip's marked the beginning of a rocky period for Earnhardt Jr., with only one win in both 2005 and 2006 and no wins in 2007. Hoping for a change, he left his father's company and signed with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, which served as the first step in reviving his career. No significant wins were recorded until 2012, when he placed second in the Daytona 500 and placed in the Top 10 in several major races. His 143-race losing streak ended with his capture of the top prize at the 2012 Quicken Loans 400, though a concussion forced him out of the rest of the season. Earnhardt Jr. battled hard throughout 2013, placing in the Top 10 or Top 5 at the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400, though engine malfunctions and other problems undermined many of his races that year. He finished in fifth position that year, and earned his best ranking since 2004 the following year with four wins and 12 Top 5s. His streak of solid racing continued with a Daytona 500 win in 2014 and into 2016 with his first Xfinity win since 2010 and 3rd place at the All-Star race that year.

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