NASCAR's Most Popular Driver to Become a Dad
Last April, NASCAR Nation received the news they knew would come eventually but all hoped would be a long way off. The sport's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would retire following the end of the 2017 season. But Monday afternoon, fans were given something to cheer for once again and perhaps, this happy news would lessen the blow of not seeing that iconic name above the driver side window of the number 88 car come next February.
Following a survival of the fittest, 7th place finish at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced via Instagram that he and his wife Amy are expecting their first child, a little girl.
NASCAR fans are some of the most devoted in all of sports and in part, because they root for specific people. They follow one driver throughout their entire career and for Dale Jr. fans it runs even deeper than that. Most who root for Dale Jr. were fans of his father, The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt Sr. They have supported the younger Earnhardt from birth. Loyally. Fans of the 88 feel deeply invested in his racing career but also in his life. Of course, as Southern folk tend to do, all wanted to see him lead a happy and fulfilled life—on and off the track. So just this past New Years Day, elation filled social media feeds as it was announced that Dale Jr. and Amy were wed the evening before in a festive New Years Eve ceremony. Several other drivers were in attendance and shared moments from the special occasion.
So it comes to no surprise that fans have struggled with bidding farewell to one of the most iconic and beloved faces of the sport. But the news didn't come as a total surprise after Earnhardt spent much of the 2016 season sidelined from the lingering symptoms of a concussion. As he recovered, Earnhardt became a leading voice in advocating more research on improving treatments for and conditions to prevent head injuries in his sport. But the time away from the track gave him perspective on what was most important to him and what he wanted in the future. In a press conference announcing his impending retirement, he called the decision "bittersweet."
Thankfully, he's not going far next season. Earnhardt will join the broadcast team at NBC Sports as they cover the 2018 season. His future co-worker at NBC Sports, who also happens to host Southern and Hungry on Cooking Channel, Rutledge Wood, spoke to Southern Living about the baby news.
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"I'm really excited for Dale and Amy to get to experience the joys of parenthood. As a father of three daughters, it's the greatest job in the world and I know they will be awesome at it!"
Wood is not alone. Dale's sister Kelley took to Twitter to share her excitement. As did several other drivers.
The folks at Martinsville Speedway even jumped on the congratulatory bandwagon. The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series rolls onto their track the weekend of October 27th and Amy Earnhardt is scheduled to drive the pace car.
We here at Southern Living wish the Earnhardts our warmest congratulations on their wonderful baby news. And if you ask us, a monogramed checkered flag onesie would make a great baby gift!