Talladega Superspeedway officials presented Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Friday with what may be his best retirement gift yet: the Chevrolet Monte Carlo his father drove during his rookie of year season of 1979, and perhaps during some races in his first championship season in 1980 (via NASCAR.com).
This Chevy Monte Carlo that Dale Sr. drove on his way to his 1st championship is now on permanent loan to @DaleJr. #Appreci88ion pic.twitter.com/prHIeVRPaG
— TalladegaSuperspdwy (@TalladegaSuperS) October 13, 2017
“This car is a 1979 Monte Carlo,” Earnhardt Jr. said after driving the Chevy around the Talladega track. “Dad drove this car in his rookie season; he probably ran it in his championship season too in 1980.
“They ran a Monte Carlo here in ’79 but in ’80 they ran an Oldsmobile 442. This was the kind of car he ran at Bristol and all the short tracks and the mile and a halves.”
The gift was given to Earnhardt by Talladega Superspeedway officials, in conjunction with the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the state of Alabama. Per the Charlotte Observer, the gesture “brought a big smile to the retiring driver and joyful tears to his wife, Amy.”
Earnhardt Jr. clarified that the state of Alabama actually owns the car, but he has it on permanent loan.
There was even more in Talladega’s gift bag to Earnhardt Jr. He was also given two magnums of champagne by Talladega officials, the first from the batch that helped celebrate his father’s final victory at the track in 2000, the second from the celebration of Earnhardt Jr.’s first Talladega win in 2001.
Earnhardt Jr. will race for what’s expected to be his last time at Talladega in Sunday’s Alabama 500.
“I’m pretty surprised,” he said of receiving his dad’s Monte Carlo. “I didn’t think I was going to take home a race car from this weekend. I just have to thank Talladega Superspeedway and the state of Alabama. They’ve been really good to me and hopefully we can get them a win this weekend.”