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EARNHARDT JR. MATCHES HIS FATHER AS NASCAR HALL OF FAMER

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. recognized early he would never be a seven-time NASCAR champion like his dad.

It was unrealistic to believe he would match the late Dale Earnhardt on the track. The Intimidator was tough as nails, didn’t tolerate any nonsense and built a winning resume that made him a first ballot Hall of Famer in NASCAR’s 2010 inaugural class.

Junior never hoisted the Cup.

But what he did do was build a career as NASCAR’s top ambassador, finding a crossover audience that stretches far beyond his father’s reach.

“Once I realized that I wasn’t going to match dad’s statistics on paper ... to me, my dad was this really important part of the puzzle, and he was important because of his success but also because of the reaction to whatever he did,” Earnhardt told The Associated Press this week. “I thought, ‘Wow, that is an asset, that’s what being an asset to the sport is and this guy is valuable.’ I wanted to have that same value.”

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