In terms of sports moments that would make horrible Hollywood scripts because they would seem cliched and too feel-good, near the top of that list is Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the Pepsi 400 in 2001 on the same track that took the life of his father earlier that year in the Daytona 500.
On the weekend of the late Earnhardt Sr.’s would-be 55th birthday, The Intimidator’s namesake will be taking his No. 8 Budweiser car and putting a black Sharpie to it.
While the end of Dale Sr.’s career also put an end to the classic No. 3 Goodwrench car — and perhaps forever in the sport for that number — the normally red No. 8 will switch sides of the checkerboard and play black for a day.
Of all the slick-looking black color schemes, the two that pull it off the best were the Goodwrench No. 3 and Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove. Take the left apex out of the 8 digit, and Dale Jr. has his father’s number designed to the T.
But this weekend, the “T” stands for Talladega, site of the Aaron’s 499 (499?). Earnhardt Jr. enters the race seventh in points but winless on the year. Good news, though. This track has been kind to Earnhardt racers:
• “T” also stands for ten, as in number of career races Dale Earnhardt Sr. had won at Talladega Superspeedway in 44 races, along with 13 other Top Five finishes.
• The son has five career wins at ‘Dega in 12 races, with two other Top Fives.
• Junior has finishes an average of 10.6th, 2nd among any other racetrack (Richmond 10.1).
• Junior has won the second most money at Talladega (Daytona is, obviously, No. 1).
Also, Martin Truex Jr. — who races with the same team, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. — won the Busch race Saturday afternoon, the Aaron’s 312 (312?). Besides the obvious namesake similarity between Truex and Earnhardt, Truex took the Busch checkered flag while also running in a black No. 8 vehicle.
The one early setback for Dale Earnhardt Jr. is his starting position — 27th. But in his last win, which was July of last year at Chicago, he started 25th. So if he can gain position in a hurry, he may be the center of attention in victory lane.
This could be, to say the least, a pretty fun week for all DEI racers involved. The man known as The Intimidator was famous for dominating ‘Dega. My money’s on his son to collect Talladega win No. 6 tomorrow. That’s my guaran-T.