David Poole is a motorsports writer for the Charlotte Observer, traveling around the country more than 30 weekends a year to cover NASCAR's top series and teams. He has written NASCAR articles for a number of major magazines, appeared on ESPN, SPEED and on CBS, ABC, and NBC network news programs, and talked about stock car racing news and issues on dozens of radio stations nationwide. He is the author of several books on NASCAR. He lives in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Drivers: Dale Earnhardt Jr.by David Poole
Dale Earnhardt Sr. once thought his namesake never listened to him. But by the time Dale Earnhardt Jr. made it to the Winston Cup level, it was obvious that he'd been paying attention all along. In his first three seasons as a Winston Cup driver, he showed that he possessed some of his father's skills, especially when it came to racing at Daytona and Talladega, two of the sport's biggest tracks. Though Earnhardt Jr. bears his father's name, he has a style all his own. Earnhardt Jr. is perhaps the closest thing that stockcar racing has to a rock star, right down to his trademark baggy attire and the baseball cap that he wears backward. He's even been a presenter at the MTV Movie Awards and has been interviewed by Rolling Stone and Playboy magazines. Earnhardt Jr. is computer literate, while the only computer his dad ever mastered was the one that gave him an unmatched, seat-of-the-pants feel while driving a race car. But both men signify two distinct phases in the sport they've mastered. The elder Earnhardt's career started on the dirt tracks of the Carolinas. By the time of his death in 2001 at the Daytona 500, he had helped propel stock-car racing into the mainstream. His son entered NASCAR's elite and became a star just as Winston Cup racing moved from cable television to the networks, and just as his father's generation of superstars was heading into its final years of competitive racing. With a name like Earnhardt, it's hard for a driver to go unnoticed. Earnhardt Jr. entered the NASCAR Busch Series in 1996 and eased into Winston Cup two years later. In 2000, his first full season at Cup level, Earnhardt won two poles, two races, and The Winston All-Star race. The next year, emotional victories became Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s signature. From his dramatic finish in the Pepsi 400 in Daytona -- just five months after his father's fatal crash there -- to his next visits to victory lane at Dover and Talladega, Earnhardt has shown that he is capable of upholding his
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