When Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time racing at the end of the 2017 season, he walked away as the 15-time Most Popular Driver. Now he can add Hall of Famer to his career resume. He became one of three former drivers — two from the Modern Era and one from the Pioneer Era — to hear their names called on Tuesday night.
NBC Sports Network aired a special to announce the newest members of the Hall of Fame and confirmed that Earnhardt Jr. is the third and final inductee for the 2021 class. He joins the late Mike Stefanik as the Modern Era inductees. Red Farmer is the Pioneer Era inductee. The analysts cited his on-track performances as a reason for this induction, but they also pointed out his contributions away from the track, specifically, his work with Make a Wish.
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The voting panel for the 2021 Hall of Fame class featured a mixed group of 65 individuals. There were media and industry representatives, previous inductees into the Hall of Fame and NASCAR executives. Kyle Busch also took part in the voting process due to being the reigning Cup Series champion. Ultimately, this group confirmed the belief that Earnhardt Jr. was worthy of the honor.
Earnhardt is considered by many as one of the best drivers in NASCAR history due to his impact on the track and as a team owner following his retirement. He won the Busch Series twice, and he won the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014. When he retired, he walked away with 26 total victories. As an owner, Earnhardt Jr. has secured five Xfinity Series championships. He is one of the most beloved figures in NASCAR history, as he's been received the organization's Most Popular Driver Award from 2003-2017.
The Hall of Fame listed Earnhardt Jr. as one of the 15 finalists back in early April, joining names such as Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton and legendary car-builder Banjo Matthews. He heard the news and said he was "shocked" to learn that he was on the list. The fans, on the other hand, fully expected Earnhardt Jr. to be a first-ballot guy and proclaimed that he could clear his schedule for the induction day.
Some fans initially argued that Earnhardt Jr. would not beat out Edwards due to having two fewer career victories. However, others countered and said that it's impossible to tell the story of NASCAR without prominently featuring him. They believed that his career achievements would pair well with his impact as an owner and popularity as a driver and analyst.