Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary See all of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. through the years
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary See Dale Jr.'s rise to NASCAR stardom
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg takes spin with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
RELATED: See Zuckerberg's day at the shop and with Dale Jr. at the track CHARLOTTE, NC -- Mark Zuckerberg sits in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet with a huge grin on his face Tuesday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Facebook co-founder and CEO just finished a 175-plus-mph ride around the 1.5-mile track with Earnhardt Jr. as his driver. And he's impressed. "OK, if this is all we get to do in Charlotte, that will be enough," Zuckerberg says via Facebook Live. "What an amazing experience. … I think there were probably millions of people who would die to do what I just did." He certainly looks the part, dressed in a white helmet and blue NASCAR Racing Experience fire suit, the coloring similar to Earnhardt Jr.'s own ensemble. Zuckerberg has a relaxed, easy demeanor about him as he chats with cameramen, crew members and speedway employees. MORE: Learn about the NASCAR Racing experience But those initial laps with Junior behind the wheel were anything but a Sunday morning jaunt. "Holy s---t!" he says, as Junior veers the No. 88 machine around Turn 2 and up the banking. "All right we're a little close to the wall." "I wanted him to get a sense of the speed and the grip and the G-Forces," Earnhardt says on the ride-along. " … I'm sure it was exhilarating. I couldn't imagine getting into a car with a race car driver having never driven before myself." Zuckerberg's foray into NASCAR began with his desire to learn more about the racing community. He has been traveling around the country throughout the year, visiting different states in hopes of learning about the diverse groups of people that make up America. The NASCAR community is one that intrigued him. "NASCAR and driving and sports in general form the basis of a lot of communities," Zuckerberg says. "You think about not only the community of drivers and the families around them, but NASCAR's probably, I think, the biggest sport in the country that people go to and attend live. "… I have this big belief with Facebook and what we're doing to help people try to build community that we all need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and certainly all the fans -- I think you have three million fans on Facebook who follow Dale Jr. For them, NASCAR's a huge part of their identity and a lot of people pin their hopes on you going out and winning." "They're very supportive," Earnhardt Jr. says of his fans later. But Zuckerberg is privy to Junior Nation: "Well, you have good fans, though," he says with a chuckle. • • • Zuckerberg's quest to learn more about the NASCAR community began earlier that day in a sub-community of racing: The Hendrick Motorsports race shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. He arrived at the Nos. 48/88 shop -- that builds and prepares race cars for Earnahrdt Jr. and reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson -- dressed in a gray hoodie, jeans and Nikes, with an appetite for racing knowledge apparent. Who better to give it to him than No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus? "The crew captain!" Zuckerberg exclaims as he walks into the shop and shakes Knaus' hand. Knaus is giving Zuckerberg a private tour today. The two walk into the shop, and almost immediately Zuckerberg begins asking questions. His brow furrows and there's a "Wow!" often dancing around his mouth. Knaus leads the group from the shop and into a side room where the 7-post machine is testing one of the unpainted cars. Zuckerberg's face lights up when the car starts to rattle and shake. "Super nice guy, shockingly normal," Knaus tells NASCAR.com after the tour. "Very inquisitive. He was definitely curious about what it is that we do and he had a ton of questions. They were actually very good questions. I was happy to hear that. "... He was asking about what we do, how the cars are built, where we take them, the differences between a short track car and a high speed track car," Knaus continues. "He was asking about the tire stagger, how we choreograph our pit stops." Hendrick Motorsports presents Zuckerberg with a personalized team jersey and signed helmet upon the conclusion of the tour. "Now don't wear that when you're driving your car, that's for display purposes only," Knaus jokes. No matter: In a few minutes, he'll get his own racing-ready helmet anyway. • • • After a few laps with Junior, it's time for Zuckerberg to wheel a race car on his own. He had a few practice laps earlier that day, with Dale Jr. coaching him via in-car radio. "You're going to come down the apron, down pit road," Earnhardt said earlier. "Where's that?" Zuckerberg asked. "Where you came from," Junior said with a smile. "Oh, that's a wall, there's nothing good over there," Zuckerberg said cheerfully, piloting the race car around Turn 4 and down pit road. Now, he's relatively prepared, as he climbs into the car for another run. "I kind of showed you the line," Junior coaches. "Down the front straightaway, nice and broad, good smooth arc down the front straightaway. And then on the back straightaway, you get out against that fence, as close as you're comfortable with." "I think probably a little further away than you were," Zuckerberg says. "You got pretty close there." "I know, I was doing that on purpose, we probably wouldn't race that close," Junior says with a grin. Zuckerberg gets going, hitting 5,000 RPMs soon into his run. He hugs the white line, moving toward the high line later. He seems to grow more comfortable as his run continues. "We're just down here hanging out," he says with a smile. "After driving with you, I don't feel that we're pushing it that hard here." "Get a little more aggressive!" Junior urges, as Zuckerberg hits the rev limiter on the car. "I don't think it wants me going faster than 5,000 RPMs," Zuckerberg says. He takes a couple more laps and then comes down pit road, the grin still plastered on his face. And he's worked up an appetite. He asks about a promised dinner of fried chicken, then invites Junior to join him for a post-race meal. • • • Zuckerberg and Earnhardt engage in a conversation after their ride, a plate of fried chicken and a biscuit sitting by Zuckerburg. They talk for a while quietly, away from the cameras and lights from today. It has been a day of immersion for Zuckerberg, whose knowledge about racing has significantly increased since he arrived in North Carolina. But it was just as beneficial for NASCAR, too, as the worlds of racing and ever-growing social media industry merged on a different front. "When you have someone that has that many touch points, that many people that he influences, having him come and experience what NASCAR was all about is a tremendous opportunity for our sport," Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, told NASCAR.com. "Watching him ride along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the expression on his face and truly to get to experience what it's like to be in car and how fast it is, how loud it is, how much the vibration of the car is. "I think he has a newfound respect and we're trying to get new fans, one fan at a time. Having someone like Mark out here is certainly an opportunity for us to get more than one fan at a time."
Five cool Dale Jr. stats in addition to 600 starts
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary As Dale Earnhardt Jr. prepares to make start No. 600 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), we thought it'd be fun to find five other interesting stats about Junior, courtesy of RacingReference.com : 170,689 Matt Kenseth (176,372) is the only active driver with more laps than Earnhardt Jr., who ranks 21st on the all-time list with 170,689 laps. Dale Earnhardt Sr. is 15th with 202,288 laps, and Richard Petty is tops with 307,836. Earnhardt Jr. has averaged about 9,000 laps per season, so it's conceivable he could catch his dad in about three to four years. .1752 Junior is third in winning percentage in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at .1752 (17 percent). He's behind only Kyle Busch (.2636) and Mark Martin (.2076). Earnhardt Jr. has 24 wins in 137 career XFINITY Series races, with 13 of those victories coming in 1998 and '99 when he won back-to-back series championships. 94 Earnhardt Jr. has 94 podium finishes (first, second or third place) in the Monster Energy Series, which puts him 25th all-time in this category. He's four behind Matt Kenseth and five back of Kyle Busch. Richard Petty is tops with 461 on a list that reads like the head table lineup at a NASCAR Hall of Fame banquet. 412 Junior has 412 lead-lap finishes in the Monster Energy Series, which puts him in eighth place all-time. That's a testament to his longevity and consistency, and puts him just eight behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. Former teammate Jeff Gordon sits atop this list with 588. 148 Earnhardt Jr. has 148 top-five finishes in the Monster Energy Series, tying him with Kyle Busch for 24th place all-time heading into Auto Club. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are the only active drivers ahead of Junior on this list. Richard Petty is on top of the mountain with 555 top-five finishes. Junior has 26 career Cup wins, but he's been in contention for wins many times. Do your own stats query on RacingReference.com . &<span _rtetemp="spchk" style="background-color: #ffffaa;" _rtespchksugg="Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t">am</span>p;lt;/p&amp;gt;
From 1 to 600: Dale Jr.'s milestone memories
See where Dale Earnhardt Jr. made milestone starts Nos. 1, 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 as he gets set to hit 600 in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
Dale Jr. reflects on milestones, marks ahead of 600th start
Dale Earnhardt Jr. reflects on his career milestones ahead of making his 600th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
Dale Jr.: 'I feel really good'
Dale Earnhardt Jr. discusses his early season performance in 2017 and plans to discuss his next contract with Hendrick Motorsports down the road
Earnhardt Jr. & Zuckerberg become fast friends at CMS
Watch as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg work together at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a Facebook Live broadcast.
@nascarcasm: Why Dale Earnhardt Jr. should not worry about wearing spandex
RELATED: Read more Inside Groove READ: @nascarcasm: Why Dale Jr. shouldn't worry about wearing spandex
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: What they're writing about his return
RELATED: Junior busy in final Daytona practice Dale Earnhardt Jr . isn't the same person we saw in a race car July 9 at Kentucky, his last of 2016 before stepping aside with concussion-related symptoms. He's much better, he told NASCAR.com . He's a husband now after marrying girlfiend Amy Reimann on New Year's Eve. And he's on the front row for Sunday's Daytona 500. But how we got from July to February has had fans transfixed and reporters writing a whole lot about the journey. Here are some of the best stories and tidbits from Junior’s recovery and return. Junior sees himself as altered in significant ways, telling the New York Times, "I do feel like this is a new chapter, for whatever reason. I don't have a vision for what's going to happen. I don't know how to explain it, but it feels like a new me." And that new man is less stressed out and more at ease in every aspect of his life. " Read more Tommy Tomlinson captures the soul of the driver and the images from Junior’s test session this winter at Darlington. And goes deep into what makes our sport's perennial NMPA Most Popular Driver tick. One key piece of the new-and-improved Dale Jr. is Amy. Now his wife, she told Tomlinson she often provides Earnhardt with confidence and stays close, especially in stressful situations: "I'm his binky." But she's much more than that, and he gives her credit for improving every relationship in his life. " Read more A tale about brisket and pickled eggs from Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! shows us yet again how forthright and just, well, normal Dale Earnhardt Jr . is -- even when his life felt like it was spinning far out of that normal range. " Read more The days of dizziness and blurry vision were nightmares for Junior, who told USA Today's Brant James exactly how hard it was fighting back from wrecks at Michigan and Daytona. "My eyes were jumping around in my head real bad just riding down the street or in the car," Earnhardt said. "Like a road sign jumping around. It was so annoying. I was scared to death I was going to be stuck with that all my life." " Read more Friends and colleagues MartinTruex Jr. and Elliott Sadler tell Bob Pockrass of ESPN all about how grueling the exercises were to bring Junior back. And Pockrass writes what everyone in NASCAR is feeling: "When Earnhardt rolls off Sunday for the Daytona 500, the industry will celebrate it as an accomplishment of a race car driver and also with a huge selfish deep breath that the sport is whole again." " Read more Junior's return to racing is a victory for him, for the sport and for fans. SB Nation sums it up : "It's always more compelling when its favorite son is in the news for what he’s doing on the track."
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