Earnhardt Nation It began with Ralph Earnhardt, a dirt track legend . He was the first of the famous Earnhardt racing family to become a star. Ralph was a demon on dirt and one of NASCAR’s first super stars. Ralph’s legacy at Earnhardt Nation.com may be Dale Senior and Junior but Ralph Earnhardt is where it all started.
He may only live in the cold stare of competition in Junior’s eyes but those who saw him on the dirt will never forget him.
Ralph Earnhardt “Mr. Consistency,” may have been the inventor of “big picture racing”. He often raced five times per week near his home rather than travel far from his wife and children. He did, however, drive over 50 races in the Grand Nationals for such early car builders as Cotton Owens and Lee Petty. Ralph Lee Earnhardt was born February 23, 1928, in Kannapolis North Carolina. It was there behind his house a dynasty was born. In his garage he turned clunkers into winners. He drove those cars to hundreds of wins and track championships. He won the NASCAR Sportsman Championship in 1956, finished in the top ten of the NASCAR National Sportsman point standings six years and finished 17th in the NASCAR Grand National (Winston Cup/Nextel Cup) point standings in 1961.
He is often credited with the first use of tire stagger. He talked about “bite” in his race cars before anyone knew what it was, and installed crash bars in the driver door for safety, probably saving many lives. Ralph never had to work on his car at a race track. He would just change tires, go out, and beat everyone. According to Ned Jarrett, “Ralph Earnhardt was absolutely the toughest race driver I ever raced against. On the dirt and asphalt short tracks in Sportsman competition you went to the track you knew he was the man to beat.”
Ralph Earnhardt, was the ultimate driver. His career lasted 23 years in NASCAR Modified, Sportsman and Grand National series, he won more than 350 NASCAR races
Ralph Earnhardt passed away, from a heart attack, on September 26, 1973, at the age of 45. This pioneer gave us many things but sadly he never lived to see his greatest gift to racing. When he died his son and grandsons had not yet ascended his family into what has become one of NASCAR’s royal families. He may be gone from us but some where when Junior goes to the front and a sea of fans roar and the Earnhardt Nation stands as one, we are sure he is smiling.