A colorful, fearless portrait of the larger-than-life first family of NASCAR, the Earnhardts, and the rise of the world’s fastest stock car racing organization.
More than sixty years ago, Ralph Earnhardt toiled in a cotton mill in his native North Carolina to support his growing family. Weekends he could be found going pedal to the metal at the dirt tracks, taking on the competition in the early days of box car racing and becoming one of the best short-track drivers in the state. His son, Dale Earnhardt Sr., would become one of the greatest drivers of all time, and his grandson Dale Jr, would become NASCAR’s most popular driver of the 2000s. From a simple backyard garage, the Earnhardts reached the highest echelons of professional stock car racing and became the stuff of myth for fans.
Earnhardt Nation is the story of this car racing dynasty and the business that would make them rich and famous—and nearly tear them apart. Covering all the white-knuckle races, including the final lap at the Daytona 500 that claimed the life of the Intimidator, Earnhardt Nation goes deep into the fast-paced world of NASCAR, its royal family’s obsession with speed, and their struggle with celebrity. Jay Busbee takes us deep inside the lives of these men and women who shaped NASCAR. He delves into their personal and professional lives, from failed marriages to rivalries large and small to complex and competitive father-son relationships that have reverberated through generations, and explores the legacy the Earnhardts struggle to uphold.
In this professional history of the Earnhardt family of race car drivers, journalist and editor Busbee focuses on its most polarizing member, Dale Earnhardt Sr., often called the Intimidator. Dale's father, Ralph, began short-track racing in his native North Carolina in the late 1940s as a way to make extra money and escape the tedious life of a cotton mill "lint head." Dale Sr. inherited his father's love of speed and went on to become one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, winning 76 Winston Cup races before his death in a collision at the Daytona 500. His son Dale Jr. took to racing as well and gained celebrity that rivaled his father's. Busbee smoothly integrates the Earnhardt family saga with the evolution of stock-car racing from its Southern bootlegger roots to its current status as a multibillion-dollar institution. In his role as Yahoo's longtime NASCAR reporter, Busbee has an easy familiarity with the legends and technicalities of the sport, but never drifts too far into racing arcana for a general audience. Busbee's narrative may lack stunning revelations, but it provides an engaging account of the tragedies and dramas of an archetypal family in a uniquely American sport.