Part one of a three-part series on the life, career and legacy of Dale Earnhardt Jr .
Dale Earnhardt Jr . talks about his relationship with Travis Mack and why he felt like Mack \'paid his dues\' to become interim crew chief in Richmond.
Dale Earnhardt Jr . says he knows he will have friends and family at Homestead-Miami for his final race, and it will be very emotional.
NASCAR.com caught up with Dale Earnhardt Jr . after the Virginia 529 250 at Richmond Raceway where he expressed the need for this Jr . Motorsports cars to preform better heading into the playoff.
Dale Earnhardt Jr . praises the preparation of his No. 88 team by Crew Chief Greg Ives who was absent at Richmond Raceway due to a post-race penalty at Darlington.
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Dale Jr . announces retirement " Amy's message to Dale A statistical look at the NASCAR career of Dale Earnhardt Jr ., with numbers as of April 25, the day he announced his retirement from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season. For a deeper statistical dive, visit Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s page at racing-reference.info . 0 -- The number of laps completed in Earnhardt Jr .'s shortest race, the result of a first-lap crash in the 2001 Dura Lube 400 at Rockingham. The event was the first for NASCAR after the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. 1 -- The number of NASCAR All-Star Race victories in Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s career. He became the invitational event's first rookie winner in 2000. 2 -- The number of Daytona 500 victories recorded by Dale Earnhardt Jr . 3 -- The car number made famous by his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt . Also, Earnhardt Jr .'s highest-ranking finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, in 2003. 6 -- The number of wins recorded by Earnhardt Jr . at Talladega Superspeedway, the most among active drivers. Also, the number of victories Earnhardt achieved in his winningest season (2004). RELATED: All of Junior's wins " Dale Jr . through the years 8 -- Earnhardt Jr .'s first car number in NASCAR premier-series competition. Also, his starting spot in his premier series debut in the 1999 Coca-Cola 600. 10 -- The number of seasons that Dale Earnhardt Jr . has driven for Hendrick Motorsports, which fields his No. 88 Chevrolet. 11.3 -- The best average finish in a single full season in Earnhardt Jr .'s career, recorded in his three-win campaign of 2015. 12 -- The number of tracks where Dale Earnhardt Jr . won in his premier-series career -- Talladega (6), Daytona (4), Phoenix (3), Richmond (3), Pocono (2), Michigan (2), and one each at Atlanta, Martinsville, Bristol, Chicagoland, Texas and Dover. RELATED: Best paint schemes " Junior plans to run two XFINITY races in '18 13 -- The number of Coors Light Pole Awards that Earnhardt has collected in his career in NASCAR's top division. 20 -- Over two seasons (2012 and 2016), the number of races that Earnhardt missed due to concussions. 21 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr . made his debut in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He finished 14th on June 22, 1996 at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway. 22 -- The number of top-10 finishes Earnhardt Jr . posted in both of his NASCAR XFINITY Series championship seasons. 24 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr . made his debut in NASCAR's premier series. 42 -- The age at which Dale Earnhardt Jr . made his decision to retire from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. RELATED: Dale Jr . explains his decision -- best quotes from the No. 88 driver and Rick Hendrick 50 -- The number of NASCAR national series victories for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., with 26 in premier-series competition and 24 in what is now known as the XFINITY Series. 88 -- The car number the Dale Earnhardt Jr . has campaigned since moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. 100 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . reached this milestone number of premier-series starts on Sept. 1, 2002 in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He finished 16th. 143 -- The number of races in the longest losing skid of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s career, spanning 2008-12. Both wins that bookended the dry spell were recorded at Michigan International Speedway. 149 -- The number of top-five finishes that Earnhardt Jr has registered in his career at NASCAR's top level. 291 -- The number of starts that Earnhardt Jr . made for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his father that gave him his start in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. 312 -- The number of starts -- as of April 25, 2017 -- made by Dale Earnhardt Jr . for Hendrick Motorsports. 426 -- The number of laps led by Earnhardt in his first full season (2000) in NASCAR's top division. 540 -- The number of times that Dale Earnhardt Jr . was scored as running at the finish in his career, an 89.6 percent rate. 595.5 -- The number of miles Dale Earnhardt Jr . completed in his big-league debut May 30, 1999 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt placed 16th, three laps down in the Coca-Cola 600. 600 -- The milestone number of premier-series starts Earnhardt achieved in March 2017 at Auto Club Speedway. 1,131 -- The number of laps led in Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s most prolific season (2004) in that category. 8,195 -- The number of laps led in Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s career to date. </p>
Dale Earnhardt Jr . wears his heart on his sleeve, a fact that has endeared him to fans, competitors, NASCAR industry insiders, sponsors and possibly the toughest crowd of all: NASCAR writers. Junior's announcement Tuesday that he will give up full-time driving duties after the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season brought accolades and emotion from the press corps. Here's a sampling of what they're writing. "As Junior wheels his final laps, we'll all spend the next seven months recalling the good times -- the victory at that 2001 Daytona summer race, for instance, or the way he became the most accessible athlete on Twitter. But let's not forget one simple fact: Dale Earnhardt Jr . is the toughest athlete in sports history." -- Jay Busbee, Yahoo Sports " Read more ----- "There is no question -- none -- that Dale Earnhardt Jr . will be voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. On numbers alone, Earnhardt should get in." -- Tom Jensen, Fox Sports " Read more ----- "On a personal and professional level, I'm really going to miss covering Earnhardt . There's something about his combination of candor, wit and humility that makes him the best interview in sports (at least that I've seen), and you really can't replace a guy like that. " Dale Jr . is a normal dude trapped in a superstar's life, and his fans identify with him because he acts and talks like they would if they found themselves in a similar situation." -- Jeff Gluck, JeffGluck.com " Read more ----- " Dale Earnhardt , Jr ., you continue to defy convention, and define yourself. Born into advantage but forced to earn every opportunity and hone every inherited skill by a demanding father and namesake, you took up the family vocation with the scrutiny that comes as part of the deal. You were Elvis' boy who took up guitar and knew that comparison was inevitable." --Brant James, USA Today " Read more ----- Thanks to Stef Schrader at Jalopnik for bringing back a late-night TV gem: Junior doing donuts on a New York street as a segment with David Letterman. " Read more This story will be updated
RELATED: Results " Stage results RICHMOND, Va. -- A little contact is customary in short-track racing. But the heavy contact that led to the derailment of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s first race since setting his retirement plans in motion came from an unexpected source -- a teammate. Neither Earnhardt nor Jimmie Johnson -- his Hendrick Motorsports stablemate -- saw each other before Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet swept up the track to broadside Earnhardt's No. 88, compounding an already frustrating Sunday at Richmond International Raceway. Both continued on, with Johnson leading the four-car Hendrick charge in 11th place, but Earnhardt faded to a 30th-place finish in the Toyota Owners 400, two laps down. "I was running the top (groove) right against the fence and really wasn't watching the mirrors," Earnhardt said. "I didn't even know he was there or anybody was coming. T.J. (Majors, his spotter) was giving me pretty good warning about guys getting on my inside, but otherwise when you're running the top, you don't have to worry about it. Everybody kind of takes care of you, but Jimmie didn't know we were there. "It was an explosion, but the car held up pretty well. It knocked the sway bar arm off it, so we ran the last bit of the race without a sway bar hooked up, but wasn't a great day." Johnson, a winner in the previous two races, also remarked about the severity of the impact. After the checkered flag, Johnson sought out Earnhardt on pit road for a team debrief and to apologize for his part in the collision. "Trying to figure out if I didn't hear it being told to me or if it wasn't told to me," Johnson said. "Just feel terrible, obviously. Man, I'm surprised our cars even kept rolling after that because I just bodyslammed him in the wall, and I could've easily not heard the clear or something else happened, I don't know. But it's the last thing you want to have happen with a teammate." RELATED: Johnson takes on Twitter haters Earnhardt started 12th and dropped back in the order with an off-cycle stop for tires. He rallied, but a speeding penalty in the 67th of 400 laps knocked him to 27th when the field reorganized. Earnhardt was busted in Section 15, the next-to-last segment on the .75-mile track's pit road. "I was pretty conservative, but they said we sped," Earnhardt said, further explaining that the team adjusts its tachometer to allow for pit road's curvature near the exit. "We're real aggressive with our (tachometer) lights. We maybe need to be a little more conservative so that we can get through a couple of these races without issues like that. But all I can do is run the lights like the dash is programmed. I really don't have a speedometer in there to help you." With his car struggling to advance on set-up savvy alone, Earnhardt and crew chief Greg Ives opted to gamble with a late green-flag run. Ives kept his driver on the track as other front-runners came in for pit service under green; that strategy moved Earnhardt as high as second in the running order, but on old tires with his team keeping its fingers crossed for a timely caution period. That yellow flag flew, but for his incident with Johnson. "Just luck this year is just awful," said Earnhardt , who also spun out 13 laps later after his car developed a tire rub. "I don't know what else we need to do. I mean, we're out there just taking care of ourselves and running along, and something seems to always bite us." RELATED: Junior frustrated in Richmond Earnhardt remained stuck back in 24th place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points, recording his fifth finish of 30th or worse in the nine events so far this year. With 27 races remaining in his final full season, Earnhardt said his goals for the immediate future might be more modest. "Greg (Ives) told me last week we weren't looking at (points) anymore, we were just going to try to win a race," Earnhardt said. We're so far back. If you're sitting 15th, 16th, 17th, you probably can't help but look at points then. We're sitting so far back, we've just got to get this thing to where we can finish. I'm just going to concentrate on trying to get about five or six races put together in a row -- top 15s -- and see what the points look like after that." The same could be said for Hendrick Motorsports, which rode the high of back-to-back victories for Johnson in the previous two races -- Texas and Bristol -- into Richmond. Sunday, none of the four Hendrick drivers finished among the top 10 -- Kasey Kahne took 22nd with Chase Elliott 24th -- nor did they collect any stage points for running in the top 10 at the two intermissions. "It's a competitive sport," Earnhardt said. "You get written off one week and then you're back in the conversation the next. None of our cars were really that fast, so we'll probably come back here with a different idea, a different direction on all our set-ups and see if we can't figure something out. We've got the equipment and the resources to run in the top five, but it's shocks and springs and set-ups that just didn't pay off today." </p>
Get an all access pass and go behind the scenes with the Dale Earnhardt Jr . No. 88 crew in his last full time MENCS cup start at Daytona International Speedway.
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary See all of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories.