Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Off-season?! WHAT Off-season?!
Since the end of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season, the No. 8 Budweiser team, led by crew chief Tony Eury, has been actively preparing the fleet of red Monte Carlos for the 2002 Winston Cup schedule. At the same time, the team's driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., has been quite busy outside the race shop, jetting across the country for sponsor appearances and a variety of fun projects. Here is a partial list of Dale Jr's activities since the season ended.
Read About It! Dale Jr. has authored his first book, Driver #8 (Warner Books, $23.95), that is now available everywhere books are sold. It is a behind-the-scenes look at Dale Jr's rookie season in Winston Cup. The project was started long before his father's tragic accident at Daytona, and offers a glimpse at how Dale Jr. coped with the pressures of starting his Cup career as a much-hyped rookie driver in 2000. He describes his year race-by-race, including dramatic victories at Texas, Richmond and at the Winston. It also details the frustrations of a poor second half of the 2000 season and what is involved in a Winston Cup driver's life away from the track.
The book will make its debut on the New York Times Best Sellers list on February 3. "Driver #8" is 16th on the Times non-fiction list following its first (partial) week of sales.
Action! Expect to see a lot of Dale Jr. on the tube this winter and spring, as he has shot a variety of television commercials in the past months. He stars in two new commercials for Budweiser that will soon begin airing on major racing and sports telecasts. The first is a humorous spot called "CD." In it, Dale Jr. is seen racing hard while a rockin' soundtrack blares in the background. The commercial takes a funny and surprising turn when the background music suddenly begins to skip.
Dale Jr. also appears in a spot called "Victory Lap." The 30-second spot shows Dale Jr. as the designated driver and using a street-legal version of his No. 8 Budweiser car to drive a friend home. The commercial is a part of Anheuser-Busch's efforts to educate Americans about being a designated driver, and will make its national network debut during the Super Bowl, February 3 on Fox.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in the last twenty years, drunk-driving fatalities have fallen by 37 percent and 122 million Americans have either been a designated driver or have been driven home by one.
NBC, the network that will televise both the Daytona 500 and the Winter Olympics from Salt Lake City, also called upon Junior's acting skills for a commercial that will appear during the network's Olympic coverage. The commercial features Dale Jr. as a zamboni driver that saves the day at the Salt Lake Olympic hockey arena.
Turn It Up! Dale Jr. is starring in his first music video, "Anti-pop" by one of Canada's top rock groups, the Matthew Good Band. Dale Jr., a longtime fan of Good and friends with the singer for nearly a year, was originally scheduled to appear in a video being shot in Vancouver on Sept. 11, which was cancelled. Soon after the terrorist attacks, Good and Earnhardt Jr. began planning a new project together. The video began airing this week on "Much Music" (Canada's answer to MTV). For those unable to receive the very hip and oh-so-cool Much Music, the video is available for viewing on the band's website at: www.matthewgoodband.com.
The video features a fun and strange journey as the rock star and the race car driver steal a neighbor's yard gnome, and then take a private plane to carry the gnome (known affectionately as "Dirty Lou") on a crazy jaunt across the United States. The video features many locales, including Beale Street in Memphis, the Alamo in San Antonio, South Padre Island, and the Strip in Las Vegas. The gnome is eventually returned to its owner along with a large stack of Polaroid photographs to document his trip. (No gnomes were injured in the making of the video.)
Talk Talk Talk! Dale Jr.'s face will peer from newsstands everywhere in the coming weeks, as he is the focus of major cover stories in publications such as TV Guide and ESPN the Magazine. The TV Guide Daytona preview issue (cover date: Feb. 16) will have Dale Jr. on the cover in hologram form. The three-dimensional version of Dale Jr. will mark only the second time that TV Guide has produced a hologram cover. The first was another famous southerner (who was also popular with the ladies), Elvis Presley.
Green Flag! Green Flag! All of the hoopla and hysteria will be drowned out by the sounds of racing action when practice begins for the 2002 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Practice starts Friday, February 8 with the green flag for this year's 70-lap Budweiser Shootout at 2 pm Sunday, February 10. The 24th annual Budweiser Shootout pits all of the Bud Pole winners from 2001 and past winners of the event in the first NASCAR Winston Cup race of the year. Dale Jr. finished sixth in his inaugural run in the Shootout last season, while Tony Stewart is the defending champion.