Fans will have two Earnhardts to cheer this week in EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2002)-- Earnhardt and Talladega. The name and the track always have been a perfect fit. Dale Earnhardt won a record 10...
Fans will have two Earnhardts to cheer this week in EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2002)-- Earnhardt and Talladega.
The name and the track always have been a perfect fit.
Dale Earnhardt won a record 10 races at the 2.66-mile tri-oval, including the last victory of his career in the autumn of 2000, when he charged from 18th place in the final five laps.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., taking up the mantle, has won the last two NASCAR Winston Cup races at Talladega.
Now it's time for Kerry Earnhardt, Dale Jr.'s older brother, to try Talladega on for size, as far as NASCAR Winston Cup racing goes. Kerry, 32, a full-time driver in the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division, will try to qualify for his second NASCAR Winston Cup race this weekend, in the No. 83 RacingUSA.com Chevrolet.
It's an appropriate ride. The Chevrolet is a Dale Earnhardt Inc. car. Its number is a historical amalgam; cars driven by Ralph Earnhardt, Kerry's grandfather, bore the No. 8 (as do Dale Jr.'s Budweiser-sponsored NASCAR Winston Cup Chevrolets), while the No. 3 belonged to his father Dale Sr.
Kerry comes off a career-best second-place NASCAR Busch Series finish, driving the No. 12 Supercuts Chevrolet for FitzBradshaw Racing. Last Saturday at Kansas Speedway, Kerry had a strong runner-up run behind winner Jeff Burton, and eagerly looked ahead to this week's NASCAR Winston Cup foray. Kerry's only previous NASCAR Winston Cup start was in the summer of 2000 at Michigan International Speedway.
"My confidence has been building every week," said Kerry, 20th in the NASCAR Busch Series points."This week our confidence is high. It's going to feel really good going into [Talladega], but we've got a lot more learning to do.
" This will be a good chance for me to get my feet wet in Winston Cup racing. Talladega's a big track to start at, but we feel like we're capable of being competitive."
Said Dale Jr.:"It will be like having another teammate out there. I'm excited for Kerry. The Kansas finish was great for the confidence of Kerry and his whole team."
Kerry has one previous start at Talladega, finishing 18th in the NASCAR Busch Series race in April. But he has plenty of experience on big tracks. Plenty of success, too. Kerry won four ARCA races before coming to NASCAR: on 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway and 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"This is going to be great," Kerry said." We've got a DEI car and a DEI engine. We've got that advantage, anyway."
"We'll just have to get Kerry dialed in so we can get him up front, working with [other DEI cars]," Dale Jr. added."Hopefully he can learn a little bit about the draft and things like that for Winston Cup, for his future whenever he moves up."
The storylines abound regarding this Earnhardt angle. Aside from the obvious historical implications, consider the present: Dale Jr. is trying for a season sweep of Talladega races, and a win Sunday would give him a $1 million bonus from series sponsor R.J. Reynolds, via the Winston No Bull 5 promotion.
His brother, meanwhile, wants to run well and build momentum for the rest of the NASCAR Busch season. Kerry, like his brother, is on a mission to measure up to one of the most daunting legacies in sports.
And, like his brother, Kerry also is trying to satisfy the legion of Earnhardt fans that now support the brothers with the same fervor as when they supported Dale Earnhardt.
"It's amazing, like in all the driver introductions, the responses we get; the crowds just go wild," Kerry said.
"Dad started something with the Earnhardt name, built a real fan base. But I think a lot of the fans now are looking at [Dale Jr. and I] as just ourselves and not just as the Earnhardt name."