Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s career in NASCAR’s top circuit began in 1999 with a five-race audition for the big leagues. One year later, his winning ways in that series found a launching pad.
NASCAR.com rekindles those 20-year-ago memories Thursday with a full-race replay of the DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway from April 2, 2000. Earnhardt led a race-high 106 of the 334 laps for the first of his 26 victories in what is now called the NASCAR Cup Series.
Earnhardt outran runner-up Jeff Burton down the stretch and secured his first win in just his 12th Cup Series start. The feat touched off a special celebration in Victory Lane with his father, who owned his son’s No. 8 Chevrolet and came home seventh in his own iconic No. 3.
Earnhardt wound up winning twice in his first full season, adding a Richmond Raceway triumph later that spring. He finished second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year hunt to the promising Matt Kenseth, who broke through in the Coca-Cola 600 that May.
Check out the scenes from Texas Motor Speedway and watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. notch his first Cup Series victory with this Classic Race Replay of the 2000 DirecTV 500.