NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues role in historic streak

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s entry in the Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway on Saturday played a role in extending the streak of the Earnhardt name in NASCAR to 47 straight seasons.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. floated the idea of being completely done racing in NASCAR after competing in one of the two Xfinity Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway last June.

Earnhardt retired from full-time Cup Series competition after 18 seasons following the 2017 season, but in each of the three seasons that have been contested since then, he has made it a point to run in one Xfinity Series race for JR Motorsports, the team he co-owns.

In 2018, he wheeled his #88 Chevrolet to a fourth place finish at Richmond Raceway. In 2019, he placed sixth at Darlington Raceway behind the wheel of his #8 Chevrolet before a disqualification for race winner Denny Hamlin promoted him to fifth. Then at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2020, he finished in fifth.

But late last October, the 46-year-old Kannapolis, North Carolina native confirmed that the 2020 season would not be his last.

When JR Motorsports confirmed the 13th consecutive season of their partnership with Unilever, it was announced that Unilever paint schemes would be featured part-time throughout the 2021 season, with Earnhardt behind the wheel of the #8 Chevrolet in one of those races.

He did not announce which race right away, but it turned out to be this past Saturday’s race at Richmond Raceway, which he finished in 14th place.

As a result, he has played a role in the Earnhardt name being in NASCAR on some level for a 47th consecutive year.

Jeffrey, Dale Jr.’s nephew, already officially extended that streak when he competed for JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. He has competed full-time for the team behind the wheel of the #0 Chevrolet this season.

Dale Jr. himself has competed in the sport on some level since 1996, so the 2021 season marks 26 straight years of competition for him alone.

When he made his NASCAR debut in 1996, his father was still a full-time Cup Series driver. Dale Sr. made his Cup Series debut in 1975 and competed full-time until he lost his life in a tragic last-lap accident in the 2001 Daytona 500.

The first Earnhardt to compete in NASCAR was Ralph, who made his debut in 1956 but competed for the final time in 1964. Not since the 1974 season has the sport gone a season without an Earnhardt in a race.

Jeffrey has competed in the sport on some level in each of the last 13 seasons going back to 2009, and Bobby Dale competed in select Xfinity Series races from 2017 to 2019.