It goes without question that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not come close to having the type of career that his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. had during his NASCAR career. However, Earnhardt Jr’s career also hasn’t been a failure by any stretch of the imagination. After winning his second race of the season last weekend at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt Jr. is primed to contend for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship this season.
Should Jr. win his first championship, would that be enough to get him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame? Here is a quick look at what Earnhardt Jr. has accomplished thus far in his NASCAR career.
- 23 career Nationwide Series wins.
- 2 Nationwide Series Championships.
- 21 career Sprint Cup Series wins.
- 2 Daytona 500 victories.
- Most Popular Nationwide Series driver in 1999.
- 11-time Sprint Cup Series most popular driver (2003-2013).
- 2-time Bud Shootout winner
There are some people out there that believe Earnhardt Jr. already has the numbers to get into the HOF. Those people (I am not one of them) believe that his 21 wins (which are more than some current HOF members) along with his Daytona 500 and Nationwide Series accolades are enough to get him in. Others believe that all he needs to secure his spot in the HOF is a Sprint Cup Series championship.
Although winning a Sprint Cup Series championship would go a long way in helping his chances of making into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it still may not be enough.
Brad Keselowski has a Sprint Cup Series championship as well as a Nationwide Series championship. Keselowski currently has five more Nationwide Series wins than Earnhardt Jr. and is only 10 Sprint Cup Series wins behind him. If Keselowski finishes his career with the same amount of wins as Earnhardt Jr. does that make him worthy of the Hall of Fame? If it doesn’t than how is it that Earnhardt Jr. is worthy now or with a championship?
Then there is Carl Edwards, Edwards also has a Nationwide Series championship. He also has 15 more Nationwide Series wins than Earnhardt Jr. does as well as one more Sprint Cup Series win. Is Edwards worthy of the Hall of Fame now or would he be worthy if he won a championship? Does the fact that Earnhardt Jr. has two Nationwide Series championships make him standout more than Edwards and Keselowski because they only have one?
What then happens if we enter Greg Biffle into the equation? Biffle like Earnhardt Jr. and Edwards is without a Sprint Cup Series championship. However, Biffle has a Nationwide Series championship and a Craftsman Truck Series championship. If Biffle were to win the Sprint Cup Series championship he would complete NASCAR’s Triple Crown thus becoming the first ever driver to do so. Biffle’s 19 Sprint Cup wins and 20 Nationwide Series wins (along with his 16 Truck Series wins) put him into the same stats conversation as the other drivers in this article.
So this brings us back to Earnhardt Jr. and the question of whether or not he is currently Hall of Fame worthy or needs a championship to get into that conversation.
In today’s age of NASCAR I think it goes without saying that he needs a championship to be considered for the HOF. I also believe that one championship isn’t enough because I don’t believe that Keselowski is a HOF driver currently even with his championship. Now this isn’t meant to take anything away from Earnhardt or diminish what he has accomplished. In the world of sports (NASCAR included) there are plenty of athletes who have had great careers but simply haven’t had HOF careers. Making it into the HOF should be one of the most prestigious accomplishments of your career, as a result they simply cannot just let everyone in.