Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks to USA TODAY Sports about his legacy, his incredible fan support and his future.
USA TODAY Sports
CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final race as a full-time NASCAR driver was already certain to stir nostalgia in his massive fan base.
The paint scheme that NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver will employ for the last race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will likely rekindle memories for most everyone else who watches the sport. It’s a No. 88 instead of a No. 8 and Axalta instead of Budweiser, but the connection is recognizable.
The scheme, as revealed live on QVC on Wednesday night, harkens to Earnhardt Jr.’s 1999 Cup debut. That season preceded eight full-time campaigns at Dale Earnhardt Inc., which was founded by his late father and namesake as a place to learn the business for him and his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, a co-owner of JR Motorsports.
“It came together really quick,” Earnhardt Jr. told USA TODAY Sports of the scheme. “There weren’t a lot of adjustments to be made. … I read through Twitter. Everyone who has any particular comment about this unveil or knows about this particular unveil seems to want this car and hopes it’s this car. So I’m excited to reveal it and let them get happy.”
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Earnhardt Jr. claimed 17 of his 26 Cup wins at DEI — from his first at Texas Motor Speedway in 2000 to Richmond in 2006 and including the 2004 Daytona 500 — most in some iteration of an iconic bright red No. 8 Chevrolet sponsored by Budweiser. That mark last season left NASCAR after nearly four decades when Anheuser-Busch began marketing its Busch brand instead, continuing a relationship with Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing. Axalta’s typical race car color palette allowed for a closer facsimile than that of co-primary sponsors Nationwide, which uses blue and silver, and Mountain Dew, which utilizes green.
“There are few names more iconic in the world of racing than Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” said Ken O’Brien, Senior Vice President of Merchandising for QVC. “We are truly honored to play a role in Dale’s journey, and we are proud to offer our viewers the chance to be a part of history with the unveiling of his final paint scheme.”
Follow Brant James on Twitter @brantjames.