This was the year Earnhardt’s inconsistency toward his job may have cost him a series championship that would have been a stepping stone toward true racing greatness.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won six races in 2004 but not the championship
The combination of the family name and back-to-back Xfinity Series Championships made Dale Earnhardt Jr. Naturally, he went full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2000. He won Texas Motor Speedway and Richmond in his first 11 races and was on his way to a long career.
After completing 16The tenthThe eighth and 11The tenth In points with seven wins over the first three seasons, the seven-time series champ’s son appeared to be a hit in 2003. Earnhardt won in Talladega and Phoenix while showing enough consistency across the rest of the table to finish third in points to Matt Kenseth and Jimmy Johnson.
It opened in 2004 by winning an award Daytona 500 Then in Atlanta three weeks later. The tournament’s off-season format has changed to add a playoff element, but Earnhardt appears ready to compete. He won twice more during the regular season and went to Chase in the Cup playoffs as the third seed for Jeff Gordon and Johnson.
Although he had two more wins, Earnhardt’s only other accomplishments better than ninth in a 10-race title fight were two-thirds. By the time he finished, Kurt Bosch had reached the championship, and Earnhardt had fallen to fifth.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. admits that he did not apply himself
Kurt Bosch won half the races Dale Earnhardt Jr. In the 2004 season, he still beat Jimmy Johnson with eight points and Jeff Gordon with 16 points. Mark Martin and Iranhardt rounded out the top five but finished both with a points lead. Earnhardt never won more than four races in a season or finished fifth again in his career.
The Charlotte News Observer He did a series about North Carolina’s leading sports figures, and nearly two decades since the season would have given Earnhard time to reflect and admit not reaching his full potential in NASCAR. He cited a lack of self-discipline after his father’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
“I didn’t realize that a work ethic had to be as great as I could be. If my father had lived, he would probably have encouraged me, with success, to be better at applying myself. But when he passed away, there were so many feelings that went with it. I couldn’t choose what I felt it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt cited a grip of grief and depression over him for some time after the Daytona tragedy.
“But I also had this weird, weird feeling of being freed from some limitation or some kind of mental attachment,” he added. “It was scary. I was able to make my own decisions in life, but my dad always had a roof over me. He never let me go crazy too much.”
The NASCAR star chose video games to hone his racing skills
With his father gone, Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaned on his sister, Kelly Earnhardt Miller, to keep him interested in his business interests and commitments, but he lacked someone who could continue to shape his growth as a person. Tony Yori Jr. and his dad have been a strong influence, but they can’t be there 24/7.
He said of his uncle, “He wouldn’t call me at nine in the morning saying, Where are you?” “I was doing what I wanted to do. I wasn’t focused on becoming a better race car driver.”
The man who was repeatedly chosen as the most famous driver in the sport spent as little time as possible around the store or on the track.
“I would be on the bus playing video games, literally looking at my watch, and going, for five minutes to work out,” Earnhardt said. “I can play a few more minutes. Two minutes to practice. … I can get away with it, being small, and we have great cars.”
This continued until Team DEI left the family in 2008 to spend the last decade of his career with Hendrick Motorsports.
“What I learned by going to Hendrik is the ‘Hendrick way,’ how to prepare,” he said. And I thought, ‘Dang, how many races have I possibly won…’
Do you have a question or note about the race? John Moriello of Sportscasting does a mailbag column every Friday. Write to him at JohnM@Sportscasting.com.