Ranking Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most memorable wins ahead of his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction

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Nearly a year later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will finally be inducted Friday into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, along with legends Red Farmer and Mike Stefanik.

Junior, who will join his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. in the Hall of Fame, was originally voted in during the summer of 2020, but the 2021 induction ceremony, set for last February, was postponed a year due to the pandemic.

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The 2021 class will finally be honored Friday night in Charlotte (8 p.m., live on Peacock), with Earnhardt Jr. set to be recognized alongside the late Stefanik, a nine-time champion who excelled in NASCAR’s Modified Tour, and Farmer, a Modified and Late Model Sportsman champion who carried the vote on the Pioneer Ballot.

“Oh, I don’t really have any expectations,” Earnhardt Jr. said during last week’s Next Gen test at Daytona. “I’m just gonna go and enjoy, and I’ve got a lot of friends and family that’ll be close and be around, so I don’t know what to expect. I’m just going to go with a good, positive attitude and enjoy everything that happens.”

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Junior won 26 career races during a 19-year Cup career that started with his first full-time season in 2000. He was named NASCAR Cup’s most popular driver for 15 consecutive years from 2003 until his retirement in 2017.

Ranking Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most memorable wins ahead of his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction

Global Tech News Daily

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Here are five of his most memorable victories:

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. joins Hendrick, breaks 76-race winless streak at Michigan

After nearly a decade driving the No. 8 Chevy for his dad’s team, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, Junior joined Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 88 car ahead of the 2008 season.

It then took 15 races, and some good fuel strategy and luck at Michigan International Speedway, for him to win his first race with HMS — which also happened to end a 76-race winless streak.

Junior elected to stay out late in the race while several drivers made green-flag pitstops for fuel, and he passed Jamie McMurray for the lead with five laps to go. A caution came out with three to go, setting up an overtime finish with Earnhardt Jr. in the lead but unsure if he could make it on fuel.

Junior led the field to the green flag and had enough fuel to make it back around to the white flag when former teammate Michael Waltrip spun behind him, bringing out the caution and ending the race.

Dale coasted around for the final half-lap, crossed the start/finish line, and then made it back around to pit road on fumes, running out of gas shortly after taking the checkered flag.

Ranking Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most memorable wins ahead of his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction

4. Earnhardt Jr. wins first Cup race at Texas

Earnhardt Jr., just 26 during his first full-time season, was in the midst of a three-race slump — he wrecked out of the previous two events — when he arrived at Texas on April 2, 2000 for the DIRECTV 500.

Still, he started the race fourth and quickly worked his way to the front, battling Scott Pruett for the lead just eight laps into the race.

Junior would eventually lead 106 laps and cruise to his first career Cup Series win, beating Jeff Burton by nearly six seconds.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. would finish seventh and be the first one to greet his son in Victory Lane just a few minutes after taking the checkered flag.

Ranking Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most memorable wins ahead of his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction

3. Earnhardt Jr. wins in first race after Sept. 11 attacks

Junior led nearly 200 laps and won the Sept. 23, 2001 race at Dover by nearly two seconds, but that wasn’t the story.

This was NASCAR’s first race back after the Sept. 11 attacks. Fans were given American flags for pre-race ceremonies, Lee Greenwood sang God Bless the USA and each car featured an American flag.

Earnhardt Jr. led the field to green on single-file restart with seven laps to go, and held off Jerry Nadeu to win his third race of the season. After taking the checkered flag, Junior did a clockwise victory lap while holding an American flag outside his window.

Ranking Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most memorable wins ahead of his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction

2. Dale’s 2004 Daytona 500 triumph

It took Junior just four years to capture his first career Daytona 500.

The second half of the ’04 race was run caution-free, and came down to Earnhardt Jr. vs. Tony Stewart, with the two combining to lead 101 of the final 120 laps.

Rookie Scott Wimmer led late in the race after taking two tires during green-flag pit stops, but Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart quickly caught him with 25 laps to go. Junior would eventually pass Stewart with 19 to go and hold on for his first of three Daytona 500 wins.

The 2004 Daytona 500 also took place exactly six years to the day after Dale Sr. won his one and only Daytona 500.

Ranking Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most memorable wins ahead of his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction

1. Lessons learned: Earnhardt Jr. wins 2001 Pepsi 400

Not much of a surprise ending here, but for good reason. Not only was the 2001 Pepsi 400 Junior’s most memorable win, it was one of the most memorable races of all time.

Just five months after his father died in the 2001 Daytona 500, Junior returned to Daytona for the July race and won in dramatic fashion, passing six cars over the final six laps and holding off teammate Michael Waltrip to win for the first time since his dad’s death.

After the race, Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip parked their cars next to each other in the middle of the grass below the start/finish line and celebrated on the hoods in front of 100,000 fans.

“When I won that race, I was not going to Victory Lane,” Earnhardt Jr. told The News-Journal last summer. “I used to despise how mechanical that was. I didn’t want anything to do with going over there and being told what to do next. I pulled onto the front straightaway to do the burnout and I thought, I’m getting the hell out of here.

“I wanna get on this roof, I wanna see these people in the stands, I wanna hear them, I wanna look at them. I wanted to do what felt natural and it was so spur-of-the-moment, shoot-from-the-hip. Everything we did there is what we felt like doing in that moment.”

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