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Dale Earnhardt Jr. headlines the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Charlotte

Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the pace lap in his father’s, Dale Earnhardt No. 8 Chevrolet prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Steakhouse Elite 200 at Darlington Raceway on May 08, 2021 in Darlington, South Carolina.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the pace lap in his father’s, Dale Earnhardt No. 8 Chevrolet prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Steakhouse Elite 200 at Darlington Raceway on May 8, 2021 in Darlington, South Carolina.

North Carolina native Dale Earnhardt Jr. is set to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte Friday night. The ceremony is returning after a year off during the pandemic.

Voted by fans as the sport’s most popular driver for 15 consecutive years, Earnhardt headlines a class of three inductees and says he’s simply looking forward to the experience.

“Oh man, I don’t really have any expectations,” he said last week during a news conference for NASCAR's Next Gen test in Daytona, Florida. “I’m just going to go and enjoy and got a lot of friends and family that’ll be close and be around, so I don’t know what to expect.”

The son of seven-time Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt joins his late father in the Hall of Fame after winning 26 races at NASCAR’s highest level. He won the Daytona 500 twice and is also a championship driver and team owner in the second-tier Xfinity Series.

Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Winston Kelley said Earnhardt’s induction Friday night is about more than stats.

“The reason he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer is a combination of what he did in the sport – many of the things you recognize – but what he’s done for the sport,” Kelley said.

Kelley said the ceremony is a shot in the arm for the Hall of Fame, on top of already increasing attendance since admitting fans again after the pandemic.

“We reopened in September of 2020 and it took a while to build back up but since April of last year we have been above 2019 pre-pandemic levels,” he said. “So, we’ve been that signature must-see attraction that we’re wanting to be in Charlotte and that continues.”

Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team helped launch the careers of eventual champions Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. Today, he’s also an analyst for NBC Sports.

The other inductees are 89-year-old Red Farmer, who won over 700 races on short tracks and still competes in Alabama, and the late Mike Stefanik, a seven-time Modified Tour champion. The ceremony begins at 8 p.m. on Peacock TV.

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Woody is a Charlotte native who came to WFAE from the world of NASCAR where he was host of NASCAR Today for MRN Radio as well as a pit reporter, turn announcer and host of the NASCAR Live pre race show for Cup Series races. Before that, he was a news anchor at WBT radio in Charlotte, a traffic reporter, editor of The Charlotte Observer’s University City Magazine, News/Sports Director at WEGO-AM in Concord and a Swiss Army knife in local cable television. His first job after graduating from Appalachian State University was news reporter at The Daily Independent in Kannapolis. Along the way he’s covered everything from murder trials and a national political convention to high school sports and minor league baseball.