Following in the family tradition of dominating NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has built an incredibly successful career as a stock car driver and team owner. The “Pied Piper” of Daytona has won the Daytona 500 twice, and won “Most Popular Driver” consecutively from 2003 to 2014. This combination of talent and likability has made him a star on and off the track. When he isn’t out winning races in his No. 88 Amp Energy Chevrolet SS or running his team, Earnhardt, Jr. has stayed relevant in broader culture as well, showing up in various films, TV shows, and even music videos. Let’s take a look at some of his best forays into pop culture.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell hilariously spoofed racing culture in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. In order to create a semi-authentic atmosphere, McKay enlisted a handful of professional drivers to be in the film, including Earnhardt, Jr., who cannot resist the pull of Ricky Bobby.
Earnhardt, Jr. appeared on the MTV classic twice, once in 2001 and once in 2009. In this first episode, he shows the crew around the home that he recently had built. This was early in his career, but he already found great success on the track. Though it didn’t seem to go to his head, as he emphasized the familial nature of the home and the work that he and his sister had done to furnish and decorate it.
The Cleveland Show
He’s an avowed fan of Family Guy, so appearing in the spin-off, The Cleveland Show, was a “no-brainer” for Earnhardt, Jr. He appeared in the Season 4 episode, “The Hangover Part Tubbs,” where he helps Donna get back to Stoolbend for her school board speech after a drunken night at a NASCAR race.
Earnhardt, Jr. had the opportunity to light up the silver screen in the Disney/Pixar movie Cars as Junior, protagonist Lightning McQueen’s good guy competitor: The design of Junior was based on Earnhardt’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he drove from 1999 until 2007.
Lots and Lots of Music Videos
He’s cameoed in a bunch of music videos, but the coolest Earnhardt, Jr. appearance might be in Jay-Z’s James Bond themed “Show Me What You Got.” video. Here’s a life tip for you: If Jay-Z asks you to come race expensive sports cars in Monaco, you absolutely say yes.
In 2010, Earnhardt, Jr. filmed an episode of Shaquille O’Neal’s reality show Shaq vs., where O’Neal would challenge athletes at the top of their fields in their own sports. Shaq raced Earnhardt on the Concord Speedway in North Carolina, and was beaten both times. Shaq may be one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, but he’s no match for Junior behind the wheel.
Funny or Die’s Knight Rider
Earnhardt, Jr. channeled his inner Hasselhoff in the Funny or Die sketch that spoofs the classic 1980s show. In this update, KITT is petulant and horrible. Hopefully he has an easier time controlling his real life vehicles and pit crew.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jr.
You know you’ve made it when hipster bands appropriate your name with the deepest of irony. Earnhardt, Jr. took it in stride and was actually on board with the band name, proving once again that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
2014 Appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
According to Forbes, Earnhardt, Jr. is the highest paid NASCAR driver, netting about $23.8 million a year. It’s always interesting to see the eccentric ways that celebrities spend their money, and Earnhardt, Jr.’s is one of the best. He explained to Jimmy Kimmel that he built an old-timey Western town (complete with jail) and saloon on his property because he didn’t want his rowdy friends to trash his house while they party.