As I’ve stated in previous articles, I’m relatively new to the whole NASCAR world. One of the things that struck me right off the bat was the passion of the fans, and you certainly don’t create a following like Junior Nation by accident. At first I thought the 88’s popularity simply stemmed from the death of his legendary father, Dale Earnhardt. I’m sure that a lot of diehard Senior fans did develop a liking for his son early on in his career. But as I watched more races and interviews and observed the crowds, I came to realize that there is a lot more to Dale Earnhardt Jr than just his famous name.
A lot of my perspective and personal opinions about the drivers comes from more than just their talent and ability to win races. Maybe it’s the female in me, but compassion, common decency and their decisions off the track play a big role in my choices when I decide who I am going to root for on race day. For example, I started to see Carl Edwards in a whole new light when I saw a piece on his common practice of giving his trophies to fans to show his appreciation for their support. Now that’s a decent guy! Similarly a temper tantrum on the track or sour grapes and blame after a race leads me to instantly dislike certain drivers with the last name of Busch.
This brings me back to Dale Junior. How can you not like this guy? Seeing him in the Winner’s Circle today at Martinsville, jumping up and down and hugging his crew like an over sized teenager automatically brought a smile to my face. Every time he takes the lead you can hear the roar of the crowd, as his fans surely must dominate every race. I mean you don’t get voted NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for the past 11 years by chance!
Popularity aside, this guy goes out of his way to connect with fans. Just follow his Twitter account and see the ridiculous questions he gets asked, and answers, during many spur of the moment live tweeting sessions. Although I’ve never met him, and probably never will, I can’t think of anyone it would be easier to hang out with on a Saturday night. He’s just a regular guy who likes to watch football, drink beer and barbecue. That is of course if regular guys had a whole lot of money and belonged to a family of racing legends.
For a sport that appeals to the average Joe, Dale Earnhardt Jr’s down home, good natured and happy-go-lucky personality makes him the obvious favorite of the masses. #JRNATION.
Photo Credit: Glenn Bure - OnPitRow.com