Dale Earnhardt Jr. ready to enjoy Hall of Fame induction

Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has seemingly always been a top voice narrator.

He led the fans’ tally for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Most Popular Driver Award 15 consecutive times during his career. When the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel met in June 2020 to decide the next class, Earnhardt was another popular pick, named on 76% of the vote cast.

His reaction when his election to the Hall of Fame was revealed was a mixture of nerves and emotion. More than a year and a half later, following a COVID-19 delay, Earnhardt’s introduction along with legends Red Farmer and Mike Stefanik is finally scheduled for Friday (8pm ET, live on Peacock).

RELATED: Dale Jr. over the years | Hall of Fame Candidate List

Earnhardt said he didn’t expect to be anxious before his name was first mentioned. With induction looming, he still has no clear idea of ​​how the night will go, except to make sure he enjoys the moment.

“Oh, I don’t really have any expectations,” Earnhardt said last week, in between pre-season test drives at Daytona International Speedway. “I’m just going to enjoy it, and I’ve got a lot of friends and family that will be close and close, so I don’t know what to expect. I hope it’s a great experience for myself and for Red and Mike’s family. I hope we can go back – it’s nice to get this process going again for the next round of guys and girls to be inducted and get that process going again because we’ve kind of been on hold for a while and had to push back a class.

“But I’m just… I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to go with a good, positive attitude and enjoy everything that happens, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of people that we haven’t seen in a while, so that’s going to be fun.”

James Gilbert |  Getty Images
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Earnhardt has won 26 NASCAR top divisions and is a two-time champion in what is now called the Xfinity Series. He joins the Hall of Fame with his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., who was elected to the shrine’s inaugural class in 2010.

Earnhardt will be recognized alongside the late Stefanik, a nine-time champion who excelled in NASCAR’s Modified Tour and the former Busch North Series near his New England home. Stefanik, who died in a plane crash in 2019, was the second candidate to be chosen in the Modern Age vote.

The 89-year-old farmer still regularly races dirt roads in the Deep South, and his career spans generations of stock car racing – from the sport’s earliest days to the present day. Farmer, a champion in Modifieds and the former Late Model Sportsman division, carried the ballot on the Pioneer Ballot.

MORE: Farmer’s Racing Journey | Magical memories of Stefanik

This is the first Hall of Fame class of three; the previous 11 classes consisted of five inductees each. NASCAR Hall officials announced on October 8, 2020 that the Class of 2021 induction originally scheduled for last winter would be postponed due to COVID-19.

Friday night’s festivities will also recognize two special honorees. Ralph Seagraves, the colorful RJ Reynolds executive who ushered in a dynamic period of growth in stock car racing, will be honored with the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR. Bob Jenkins, a longtime announcer and voice for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will be honored with the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

Earnhardt has joined his NBC Sports colleagues in commemorating his introduction in the days leading up to sharing stories in short video vignettes about the mementos that will be on display in the Hall of Fame. The exhibits for all three class members will open this weekend after a private first showing for the inductees and their families and guests.

It won’t be the first time Earnhardt takes the stage at the Charlotte Convention Center for an introductory evening. That first came on May 23, 2010, when his father was welcomed as part of the first class.

Earnhardt was one of the family members speaking on behalf of his father, and he shared a story about their famous meeting in 1998 during an exhibition in Japan. “And that was the day I met the Intimidator,” Earnhardt said, laughing from the crowd.

“It was fun. I went up and said what I wanted to say,” Earnhardt said after the ceremony, expressing how the memories shared by others put him at ease. “…It actually came from watching the everyone’s speeches and how everyone was having a good time And the atmosphere was really really good And I thought Kelley (Earnhardt, his sister) and everyone did such a great job doing that for us And the program went like this smooth, it really took no effort at all, there were really no nerves.”

Here’s another vote for an encore Friday night.

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