Dale Earnhardt Jr. headlines NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. headlines NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021

By Tommy Fradenburg

Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local | See @tommyfradenburg

The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina is currently home to five father/son pairings: Bobby and Davey Allison, Bill France Sr. and Jr., Lee and Richard Petty, Ned and Dale Jarret, and Buck and Buddy Baker. But on Tuesday the sport announced those ranks will grow by one this year; with the addition of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to its 2021 class.

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Earnhardt joins his late father and titan of the sport Dale Earnhardt Sr., who perished in a wreck during the 2001 Dayton 500.

Just talking about it, it’s really emotional because I feed off affirmation,” he said in reaction to the news.

“It’s such a great feeling to know people think I made an impact. I know what my numbers are, and I feel like I was chosen because of that, but also for the impact I made off the track, being an ambassador for the sport.”

Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the 2021 class is the also late Mike Stefanik and 87-year-old Red Farmer. Let’s take a look back at their legendary careers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. is a third generation hall-of-fame driver from Kannapolis, North Carolina; and the only third-generation champion in NASCAR history.

His NASCAR career began as a member of his father’s racing team in 1998, and he won back-to-back Xfinity Series titles out of the gate. In 1999 got his first taste of Cup racing, running in five top-flight races before making the full time switch in 2000.

He established himself as a strong driver in his opening years, winning nine races between 2000 and 2003. He also secured his career-best final standing in 2003, finishing third in Cup series standings.

Despite finishing two spots lower in the standings than ’03, he became a truly feared driver in ’04. He won six of 36 races, a career-high 16 top-five finishes and one short of a career-high in top-10s.

Jr. never won a season title at the top level, but retired from full time racing in 2017 after 19 years with 26 career wins and and 260 top-10 finishes. Despite the lack of a championship; Earnhardt Jr. still received 76 percent of votes in his first year on the ballot.

Mike Stefanik

There are few drivers with a resume that can stack up to Stefanik’s.

The Coventry, Rhode Island native earned 74 total wins and seven championships over 29 years in NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour. His total number of wins trail only Richie Evans, who joined the Hall of Fame in 2011; and he also owns two K&N Pro Series East championships as well.

He also ran one full season in NASCAR’s truck series in 1999, finishing 13th but earning rookie of the year distinction for his efforts.

Stefanik tragically died at the age of 61 in a plane crash in Connecticut on September 16, 2019.

Red Farmer

While all three of these names hold gargantuan status in NASCAR lore, Red Farmer’s is unique.

A member of the original “Alabama Gang,” a famous group of drivers who set up in their namesake state, he received 71 percent of the Pioneer Ballot to earn his spot of distinction in the Hall; and has an estimated win total of more than 700. He won three straight Late Model Sportsman division titles from 1969-1971, and is still racing to this day.

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On Friday he’ll rev his engine an race in the at the short dirt track at Talladega, but he said he’s surprised he made it to the Hall at all.

“Most of the people that put you in the Hall of Fame weren’t even born when I was racing,” he said. “So they don’t really know what happened back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I didn’t know whether I’d ever make it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”

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