Only 33 drivers have started 500 races in their NASCAR Sprint Cup Series careers, but this Saturday in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. plans to add his name to that elite list. Fourteen years ago in May 1999, the Kannapolis, N.C., native made his series debut at his home track. The then-24-year-old driver started eighth in the No. 8 Chevrolet owned by his father, seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt – who, it so happens, also made his series debut at the 1.5-mile track. The younger Earnhardt finished the 1999 Coca-Cola 600 16th, three laps off the lead lap. Earnhardt also scored his first career pole at CMS, in 2000.
Now, with 499 races in the books, he's compiled 19 wins, 111 top fives, 199 top 10s and 13 poles. If Earnhardt, who celebrates his 39th birthday on Thurs., Oct. 10, wins this weekend, he would become the third driver to win in their 500th start (Richard Petty in 1970; Matt Kenseth three weeks ago at New Hampshire