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What is Becoming Earnhardt?

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Joshua Lipowski

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If you have been scouring NASCAR social media in recent days you may have seen promotional posts for a Dirty Mo Media production, “Becoming Earnhardt”. You may be wondering, “What is this?” or, “Is this just stuff I have already heard before?” Well, here is a rundown on everything you’re wondering about “Becoming Earnhardt.”

What is The Premise?

The premise of the show is discussing Dale Earnhardt and the 1979 NASCAR Cup Series season. Essentially, how did Dale Earnhardt work his way up to becoming “The Intimidator” that we know and love to this day?

The 1979 season was a critical year for Earnhardt. It was his first full-time NASCAR Cup Series season, and he was 27 years old when the season started. Before this season, he had run sporadic Cup Series races between 1975 and 1978, but he had yet to fully establish himself.

The 1979 season was also a critical year for NASCAR. Some young drivers were starting to find their footing in the Cup Series, such as Darrell Waltrip and Ricky Rudd. It also was home to one of the best rookie classes in NASCAR history with drivers like Earnhardt, Harry Gant, and Geoff Bodine.

Not only that, but it was the year that NASCAR would televise its biggest race, the Daytona 500, live flag to flag. Previously, the Daytona 500, and most other NASCAR races were carried edited on tape delay or in portions live on programs like the ABC Wide World of Sports.

For example, the iconic 1976 Daytona 500 had the first 19 laps shown live on the ABC Wide World of Sports before cutting away to Olympics coverage. Race coverage returned for the final 59 laps, so, only 78 laps of race coverage of the 1976 Daytona 500 have seen the light of day.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also offers some context into the state of motorsports in 1979. IndyCar, which had been the top motorsport in the United States for many years, was fractured, and NASCAR was in position for growth.

Episode 1: Proving Himself to a Ghost

Episode one is primarily used for scene setting, both for Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR as a whole. It goes into detail regarding how Earnhardt came across his first “big break” in NASCAR. There was even a relatively prominent NASCAR driver who was miffed at the changes to the Osterlund team.

When it comes to NASCAR, Earnhardt Jr. talks in depth about NASCAR “Silly Season” from late 1978 and early 1979. Some names that may be familiar to some are thrown out there that were changing places in the 1979 season.

Earnhardt Jr. also talks about the world as a whole. He discusses some of the major cultural phenomenon of the 1970s that captured the attention of both NASCAR and the country.

The highlight of the episode is bringing in Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s sister, Kaye. Kaye spent sometime scrapbooking her brother’s NASCAR adventures through the 1979 season, which was obviously a big year for the family. Given the fact that Dale Sr. had previously been spending multiple years trying to make a name for himself, this was a big opportunity not only for Dale Sr., but for is family too.

Episode 2: First Impressions

Episode two talks about the stories of the first two races of the 1979 NASCAR season. Contrary to modern tradition, the opening race of the season was not the Daytona 500, but it was the Winston Western 500 at Riverside, California.

Earnhardt Jr. goes into depth about all of the buildup to both of these races. The Daytona 500 and the Winston Western 500. It is also in this episode, where he talks about the state of IndyCar in 1979, which likely gave NASCAR the footing they needed.

This episode also talks about what it was that saw Dale Sr. drop out of contention in the later stages of the 1979 Daytona 500 after leading earlier. There was a car issue that had previously gone mainly undocumented by many.

The guest for this episode is none other than Donnie Allison, the one who was a part of that famous 1979 Daytona 500 finish. Allison gives some of his perspective on that iconic finish and the fight that ensued.

Conclusion

No one appreciates NASCAR history quite like Dale Earnhardt Jr. He discusses details about NASCAR and his father that many either forgot or just failed to document. This is a new way of telling a story that has been told plenty of times.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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