“Wasn’t the Power of the Earnhardt”: Dale Jr Shares the Reason Behind His Astronomical Fame

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 19: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Fifteen Most Popular Driver Awards! In the 75 years of its existence, NASCAR has seldom seen a driver more loved than Dale Earnhardt Jr. Though the legend never won a Cup Series championship throughout his career, there was no damage to his reputation as a skilled racer or the most adored driver. Even after his time behind the wheel, his name and words garner the respect that can hardly be matched by other drivers of his generation.
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With such eminence and adulation surrounding him, one would expect that the foundation beneath it all might be the Earnhardt name. But that isn’t the case, in the eyes of Dale Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr reveals the name behind his massive fame and popularity
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The character and the originality of Dale Earnhardt Jr are perhaps key factors to him being a liked personality in sports. But those attributes have done more than just make him a popular figure within NASCAR. Over the last few decades, Dale Jr’s name has found its way into Harris Interactive’s survey of the nation’s most favorite athletes frequently. Featuring alongside the likes of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, his appeal was humongous during the 2000s. Stretching beyond the rings of NASCAR, he appeared on the covers of many influential magazines such as Rolling Stone, GQ, New York Times, etc.
A gist of his popularity was reflected when his appearance as a presenter at the 43rd Country Music Awards fetched a live viewership of 35.8 million in 2009. Safe to say, the list of Junior’s media appearances and his fame streak is never-ending. But the key that unlocked this door for Junior wasn’t NASCAR or the Earnhardt name. As per his words in a recent conversation with former racer, Kenny Wallace, it was his primary sponsor of many years, Budweiser.
He said to Wallace, “Budweiser probably had more access and ability to shoot us into the stratosphere, more than any other brand. And, they did. They took advantage of all of the sending me to boxing matches, getting me into Rolling Stone. I went to MTV and introduced, during the MTV Music Awards, Linkin Park. It wasn’t uncommon to see a NASCAR driver at the CMT Awards, but at the MTV Music Awards, you weren’t seeing NASCAR guys there. That wasn’t the power of the Earnhart last name. That was Bud, man! That was Budweiser.”
Though Dale Jr is now thankful to Budweiser for putting him up there, there was a time when he wasn’t very fond of the name. In fact, it was Dale Earnhardt Sr who had to step in to resolve the matter that potentially led to one of the most memorable driver-sponsor relationships.
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Junior’s hate for Budweiser and Dale Sr’s intervention
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Though Dale Earnhardt Jr acknowledged in his conversation with Kenny Wallace that such corporate sponsors benefitted the most by putting their drivers up on the big stage, he also took a liking to the exposure that it got those behind the wheel. He continued, “They had the most to gain from it. So, we kind of got to get our partners to really use their leverage to get these drivers out there and put them in places where you know we’re not getting access to.”
Junior’s words of affinity for Budweiser make us want to look back at the time when he didn’t like the beverage and Dale Sr had to step in to make him do so. Earlier this year in an episode of The Dale Jr. Download, the icon had narrated the incident when the Earnhardts went to a dinner at the Busch family home. Talking about how he’d asked his father if he’d have to drink beer along with his food, he said, “So when we signed the Budweiser deal, right, I was not a beer drinker. At all. And we were goin’ to like, a big steakhouse in Charlotte with the Busch family and dad. And I said to dad on the way there, I said, ‘Am I gonna have to drink a beer at this dinner?’ And he’s like, ‘You’re damn right you are.’
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Since then, Dale Jr has taken a liking to the beverage and it isn’t a secret that he loves it dearly now. Starting in 1999, Budweiser sponsored the icon up until the 2007 season. Their partnership goes down in history as one of the most iconic collaborations in sport.
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