1981

Junior has never been a stranger to the racing circuit, captured here as a six-year-old atop a camper at the 1981 Richmond 400.Send comments to siwriters@simail.com.



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1982

The third of Dale Sr.'s four children, Dale Jr. is shown here with his father, stepmother, Teresa, and sister, Kelley.



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1984

Junior and his father would become only the third father-son pair to win the Daytona 500, joining Lee and Richard Petty, and Bobby and Davey Allison. Here the two sit outside their Mooresville, N.C., home in 1984.



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Photo: Racing Photo Archives/Getty Images

1985

"Little E" grins for the camera as his father distractedly looks away in thisshot from 1985. Three generations of Earnhardts took the driver seat, amassing 10 NASCAR championships.



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1987

Earnhardt, seen here in his military school uniform, has always been close to his family and shared a special relationship with his sister. "When I went to military school in seventh grade, she went with me because she was worried about me," he told USA Today. "Nobody goes to military school willingly. Sometimes I take it for granted how much she cares for me."



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Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon SMI

1988

Junior was on hand when his dad took the checkers at Martinsville Speedway in the Pannill Sweatshirts 500.



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1990

Perched on a tire in pit row, Junior looks rather bored during the 1990 Pontiac Excitement 400. His father finished second to Mark Martin.



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1992

Earnhardt Jr., seen here in 1992 with his Legends car.



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1992

In only the second time in NASCAR history that a father and two of his sons competed against each other, Dale Earnhardt, Junior and Kerry raced in 2000's Winston Cup.



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Photo: George Tiedemann/SI

1997

Junior looked to his father for reassurance when he made the leap into NASCAR's Busch Series. "When I started running Busch, I got serious. Everything about that was cool," he told the Sporting News. "Sure, I was seeking my father's approval. I wanted to make him proud. I'd been trying to do that all my life." Junior did just that, winning 13 races within the next two years.



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Photo: George Tiedemann/SI

1997

Getting his feet wet early, Junior's first race car was a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he co-owned with his brother Kerry.



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Photo: ISC Archives via Getty Images

1998

After winning the Busch Series Championship, Junior made his way into a part-time stint with the family business for the Nextel Cup and a full-time gig in 2000.



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Photo: ISC Archives via Getty Images

1998

Seen here receiving the Busch Series Championship Cup, Junior would go on to win the title again in 1999.



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Photo: George Tiedemann/SI

1999

Father and son competed in their first race together in Motegi, Japan, in 1998. Little E finished sixth, two spots ahead of his dad.



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Photo: George Tiedemann/SI

2000

Father and son share a few words.



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Photo: George Tiedemann/SI

2000

Father and son share a moment before the Miller 500 at Dover International Speedway.



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Photo: George Tiedemann/SI

2000

The Pepsi 400 always held special memories for Junior as it was one of the few races that he and his siblings could watch in person while they were in school. "We liked to go to as many races as we could when we were kids, but school prevented us from going, but we always got to go to the 400," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's just been a mainstay in my life and a part of what I got excited about year after year."



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Photo: Steve Erle/SI

2002

Junior takes SI swimsuit stunner Marisa Miller out for a spin.



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Photo: Courtesy of Playboy.com, Inc.

2003

Junior poses with the Dahm triplets on the set of a Playboy shoot.



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Photo: Darrell Ingham/Getty Images

2004

Over the course of his 11-season career, Junior has racked up more than $53 million in winnings and 18 wins.



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Photo: Fred Vuich/SI

2004

The 2004 season was Junior's most successful to date, with a career-high six victories, including the Daytona 500.



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Photo: David Griffin/Icon SMI

2004

Pictured here with his then girlfriend, Junior has said that he would like to settle down and start a family, but said he is definitely in no rush to do so.



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Photo: Worth Canoy/Icon SMI

2004

Junior wound up in a little bit of trouble for a four letter word he let slip during a post-race press conference in 2004. It cost him $10,000 and his first-place standing.



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Photo: Doug Murray/Icon SMI

2004

Earnhardt, Jr. is seen here with Jeff Gordon and Belgian model (and Gordon's future wife) Ingrid Vandebosch at the Ford 400.



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Photo: ERIK PEREL/Icon SMI

2005

Pictured here with then-crew chief Steve Hmiel, Junior would have a successful run under Hmiel before going back to Tony Eury Jr. later in the 2005 season.



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Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images

2006

Junior has a good time celebrating with the "Crown Royal Girls" after winning the Crown Royal 400 in 2006.



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Photo: Matthew O'Haren/Icon SMI

2007

A disappointing end to 2008 and a disheartening 2009 season caused crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. to be pulled off of Earnhardt, Jr.'s team. Lance McGrew was tapped as Eury's replacement.



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Photo: Michael J. LeBrecht II/SI

2008

After spending the majority of his career racing under the family's Dale Earnhardt Inc., Junior headed over to Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the 2007 season.



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Photo: Fred Vuich/SI

2008

Earnhardt, Jr. is pictured here with Tony Eury, Jr. before the 2008 Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.



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Photo: Courtesy of CBS

2008

Earnhardt, Jr. and the other 2008 Chase drivers headed to the Late Show with David Letterman to present the Top 12 Perks of Being a NASCAR driver.



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Photo: Walter Iooss Jr./SI

2008

Little E just can't seem to stay away from SI's swimsuit models. Here he is pictured with Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Julie Henderson and 2010 SI swimsuit cover girl Brooklyn Decker.



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