Who was the better Daytona 500 driver, Dale Earnhardt or Dale Earnhardt Jr?

The father-son duo has 7 Cup race victories at Daytona International Speedway.


Who was the better Daytona 500 driver, Dale Earnhardt or Dale Earnhardt Jr?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr. (Credits: Road and Track)

The Earnhardt family is one of the very few Racing families that embodies NASCAR and the sports legacy. Two of the world’s most successful and renowned Stock car racing drivers, seven times Cup series champion Dale Earnhardt and his son two times Xfinity series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., belong to the family.  The Intimidator’s other son Kerry Earnhardt was also capable of NASCAR races, and Kerry’s son Jeffry Earnhardt is a full-time Xfinity series driver.

Among the many other factors that earn drivers the legend title is the most prestigious race win in the Cup series, the Daytona 500. A win in the 500-mile spectacle hosted at Daytona International Speedway, which has been the official Cup season opener for decades, is something every driver craves for. The track demands peak skill, persistence, aggression, and luck from the drivers.  

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The Earnhardt’s are among the most successful drivers in Daytona. The family is also part of the greatest tragedy that took place a t event. Dale Sr. passed away in an accident during the 2001 Daytona 500. The father-son duo has combined three 500 wins at the track. Two of those wins were scored by Dale Jr., Both drivers also scored two wins each in the 160 laps race at the track, which is hosted annually towards the end of the regular season. The duo also started the crown jewel race at the pole one time each, and both failed to convert it into a win.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. had to wait 20 years to taste his maiden and only Daytona 500 win, which came in 1998.  He has started 23 races and has an average finish of 10.9, which ranks him P4 in the all-time charts. The RCR legend has a win rate of 4.3%. He has started 18 races in the top 10 and has scored 16 Top10s. The worst finish of his Daytona 500 career was a P36 in 1982.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is renowned for his Daytona performance and has the nickname “Pied Piper” of Daytona. He has made 18 Daytona 500 starts, five less than Dale Sr. The JRM owner has an average finish of 14.8, and a win rate of 11.1% His worst finish came in his last Daytona 500, 2017, where he scored a P37. He has started the 500 in the top 10 in 16 out of 18 starts and has 10 top-10 finishes. 

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Both drivers had the opportunity to drive competitive cars during their NASCAR starts and produced their best more often than any other drivers. Dale Jr. leads his father on race wins, pole position, and win rate. Dale Sr. Had the better top-10 conversion rate as he finished a 78% race in the Top 10 mix, while for Jr., it’s 55%. The win drought the 7times champion had for two decades sure makes, and his performance in other matrices sure gives a slight advantage to Dale Jr. in the best conversation.

In case you missed it: Who is the Greatest Driver not to Win the Daytona 500?

Dale Earnhardt’s first and only Daytona 500 win was special

Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt

Dale Sr. scored the Daytona 500 win he craved for two decades in 1998, the same season Jeff Gordan won his maiden Cup title. The No:3 RCR driver started the race on P4 and finished in the victory lane. It was the only win he scored that season. He scored just three more wins in the Cup series before the 2001 tragedy.

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While calling the win, Fox Sports commentator Mike Joy’s words represent how special it was for the NASCAR fans. “20 years of trying, 20 years of frustration. Earnhardt will come to the caution flag to win the Daytona 500! Finally!”. Dale Sr.’s words after the win were, “The Daytona 500 is ours. We won it, we won it, we won it!”

So that call, the race call, and the words as he came around the final turn, It just came to me — the whole thing about 20 years. It just came to me, and I was blessed to have Ned Jarrett and Buddy Baker in the booth with me. They didn’t interrupt or step on what I was doing there. And I’ve had some fellows that like to do that. So, they were great with it,” Mike Joy recently reflected on the win.

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