Martinsville; Lesson Being Passed Down Through Earnhardt Generations

Things may not be easier for a third generation but they sure are more lucrative. Back in 1956, Ralph Earnhardt won the NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, taking 34 of 76 races and finishing second 19 times. For the season,...

Things may not be easier for a third generation but they sure are more lucrative. Back in 1956, Ralph Earnhardt won the NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, taking 34 of 76 races and finishing second 19 times. For the season, he earned $13,264, a tidy sum for the time. Last Sunday his grandson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., won the DIRECTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory. And he won a cool $374,675, a sum his granddaddy would never have believed. His father, seven-time Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt, finished seventh and is the car owner. "That was awesome, wasn't it? Earnhardt said. "It was unbelievable." He beat his son to Victory Lane. "He told me he loved me," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "And he wanted to make sure I took the time to enjoy this and realize what we've accomplished. You can get so swept up with what's going on around you that you really don't enjoy it yourself personally." It's not easy to step out of a famous father's shadow as Earnhardt and now Earnhardt, Jr. have found. But they have. Many consider Earnhardt, the pilot of the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, to be the greatest driver in the sport's history. And Ralph Earnhardt, who died of heart failure in 1973 while working on his race car, already ranks with the greatest. "My Dad was the biggest influence on me," Earnhardt said of Ralph Earnhardt. "When I was a kid, I wanted to do anything I could to help, to be around it. He'd have me clean up the garage, the car, whatever. A few years later, I'd go get money from the bank late on Friday afternoon to pay for the entry fees of races and then race all weekend and win the money back to cover the money I borrowed. "He taught me if you want to do something bad enough, you can. And you can be good at it if you work hard." Apparently, he has taught Dale, Jr. the same valuable lessons. Dale, Jr., has worked hard over the past several years going from running Late Model Stock to two Busch Grand National Championships and now his first Winston Cup victory in only his 12th start. The younger Earnhardt, driver of the Budweiser Chevrolet, won't have long to savor his victory because he and Dad will be trying to qualify at 3 p.m. Friday for the $2,168,867 Goody's Body Pain 500 Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The NAPA 250 Craftsman Truck Series race will be run at 2 p.m. Saturday with the Goody's 500 getting the green flag at 1 p.m. Sunday. Great seats are still available by calling toll free at (877) 722-3849. And both Earnhardts would like nothing better than another victory.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt