The first victory of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s career in the Cup Series came at Texas Motor Speedway in 2000.
It was one of only two victories in NASCAR’s top-level of racing that Dale Jr. got to share with his father–the late Dale Sr.– before “The Intimidator” passed away due to an accident that occurred on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
The scene in victory lane following Dale Jr.’s first win was unlike any other because the normally stern and serious Dale Sr. smiled from ear to ear while embracing his son in victory lane.
Now, 17 years later, Dale Jr. is back in Texas for another monumental occasion as he was recently inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. While his father obviously wasn’t there to witness this prestigious honor, one of Dale Sr.’s best friends attended the event and shared his thoughts on what Dale Jr. has meant to the sport.
“Watching Dale grow up in general—but especially in our sport—has been a blessing and real rewarding,” said NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton, according to Motorsport.com. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about what is your favorite Dale Jr., moment, and there’s actually two of them and they happened in the same year. The first one was in July, the Coke Zero 400 win in 2001. The whole industry needed a healing moment—and that was it.
“The second one was in the same year, but it was in September in Dover, when after 9/11 we had skipped New Hampshire. So we go to Dover for the first race back after 9/11 and Dale Jr., wins that. Again, we all needed a big healing moment and Dale Jr., helped us through.”
Dale Jr.’s career would certainly come full circle if his 27th and final victory came at the same track where he picked up his first win.
Video: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first career victory at Texas in 2000