NASCAR: 45-year Earnhardt streak ends at Phoenix

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

For the first time since 1974, the Earnhardt name did not compete in the NASCAR Cup Series in the 2020 season, ending a 45-year streak.

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season finale took place at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 8, and nobody named Earnhardt competed in it.

In fact, there were not any Earnhardts in any of the Cup Series races which were contested in 2020, something that hadn’t happened since all the way back in 1974.

Ralph Earnhardt was the first Earnhardt to compete at the sport’s top level when he did so back in 1956. But after failing to qualify for the lone event he entered back in 1966, he retired, and the sport did not see another Earnhardt until 1975.

That is when a 45-year streak began.

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Dale Earnhardt Sr. made his Cup Series debut in 1975 and competed in the series until his death in 2001 as a result of a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. At that point, his son, Dale Jr., had been competing in the series since 1999 — since 2000 as a full-time driver. He competed full-time until retiring in 2017.

But at that point, another Earnhardt had been competing in the Cup Series. Jeffrey, Dale Jr.’s nephew, made his debut at the highest level of stock car racing in 2015 and expanded his schedule in 2016 before running full-time, sans the two road courses, in 2017. He returned in 2018 as a part-time driver and in 2019 for one race.

While 2020 saw both Dale Jr. and Jeffrey compete in the Xfinity Series, with the former doing so in one race at Homestead-Miami Speedway back in June and the latter doing so full-time since the sport returned from the 10-week hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic in May at Darlington Raceway, it did not see any Earnhardts compete in the Cup Series.

So while this season saw a 46th consecutive season of at least one Earnhardt competing in NASCAR at some level, it did not see a 46th consecutive season of an Earnhardt competing in the Cup Series.

Earlier this year and even going back to late last season, there were rumors that legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be entering a team called The Money Team Racing and that this team would field the #50 Chevrolet for Jeffrey in the Cup Series at some point in 2020.

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But that ultimately did not happen, and the season is now in the books, ending this 45-year Earnhardt family streak.