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Of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked up to his father, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., who was tragically killed at the Daytona 500 20 years ago. Junior followed in his father’s footsteps to have a Hall-of-Fame NASCAR career. Earnhardt Jr.’s real role models growing up, however, weren’t his parents, nor were they guys who drove cars. His true role models came to light after a gift from his mother when he was 9 years old.

Earnhardt Jr. to join his father in the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Dale Earnhardt Sr. is a member of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2010. Eleven years later, his son will be joining him. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was selected along with Mike Stefanik and Red Farmer. The ceremony was scheduled to take place in February but has been pushed back due to COVID-19. According to NASCAR, it will likely take place in early 2022.

Earnhardt Jr. was a two-time winner of the Daytona 500, claiming victory in 2004 and 2014. He finished with 26 NASCAR Cup Series victories in 631 races during his 19 years. Junior collected 260 top-10 finishes during that stretch.

Earnhardt Jr. was named NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver 15 times in his career. He has remained active in the sport since stepping away from a full-time role. He’s a team owner in the Xfinity Series and has been with NBC Sports as an on-air analyst since 2018.

Earnhardt Jr. gets a gift from his mother that had huge effect on him

It wasn’t the most expensive gift Dale Earnhardt Jr. received when he was 9 years old. It sure as heck had an effect on him. When Earnhardt Jr. was young, he asked for a Washington Redskins football helmet. His mother did a little better than that. She got him the whole uniform, pads, and all.

“That was when I officially proclaimed my devotion solely to the Redskins,” Earnhardt Jr. wrote in 2012, according to ESPN. “I had watched games before, particularly the 1983 Super Bowl, when John Riggins ran “I-Right 70 Chip” on fourth-and-1. He went 43 yards for a touchdown to put the Skins ahead 20-17. They won 27-17. To say I was intrigued would be understating it a bit. But when momma got me the jersey, from that moment forward, I might as well have been lining up alongside Riggins himself.”

The Redskins, now known as the Washington Football team, have been a fixture in Junior’s life ever since. He recalls pretending to be a part of the team while wearing that prized uniform. “For years, the Earnhardt-Riggins combo, nobody could stop it, especially the half-chair cushion that I used as a tackling dummy in my living room in Dooley (North Carolina),” he wrote. “I lined up across from that cushion year after year and mimicked the aggression broadcast over our television every Sunday. Valiant efforts that cushion gave, but Earnhardt in full Redskins gear was too much.”

Junior’s role models were not NASCAR drivers

Although he came from a huge racing family, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was obsessed with the Washington Redskins. His role models weren’t drivers, they were wearing the burgundy and gold and playing football on Sundays. “My role models weren’t holding steering wheels and mashing gears on Sunday,” Earnhardt Jr. wrote in a 2012 ESPN article. “They wore burgundy and gold with names like Art Monk and Darrell Green.”

Earnhardt Jr. is still one of the biggest fans of the Washington Football Team. He’s become friends with players, coaches, and owners. He’s been known to have scores given to him during his races. It all happened because of a gift from his mother more than 35 years ago.