Kenny Wallace Reveals Dale Earnhardt Incorporated’s Unknown Trophy Tradition

Published 11/11/2023, 2:54 PM EST

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The thought of a Piston trophy instantly conjures images of the animated racing world in Pixar’s Cars movie franchise. The adventures of Lightning McQueen found an indelible place in popular culture as he competed for the invaluable Piston Cup—inspired by NASCAR’s real-life Winston Cup trophy. In a delightful revelation, the Intimidators’s legacy also had a memorable connection to it.

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Not only was Dale Earnhardt awarded seven Piston Cups in McQueen’s magical world, his former team Dale Earnhardt Inc., privately handed out similar trophies to their drivers. The legendary driver’s son, Dale Earnhardt Jr, hinted at it in a conversation with Kenny Wallace.

Why did Dale Earnhardt Jr keep a piston on his desk from the time of Dale Earnhardt Inc.?

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Prior to its merger with Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc fielded several racing luminaries including Michael Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, and Martin Truex Jr. Along with Hall of Famer owners Dale Earnhardt and his son Dale Jr, the former team amassed 90 wins in NASCAR’s three premier series. When veteran drivers Wallace and Junior sat down for a conversation, their days at DEI were bound to come up. But DEI’s occasional driver, Kenny Wallace, was not prepared for the secrets uncovered in their scintillating trip down memory lane. 

In the teaser clip posted by Wallace, Dale Jr can be heard saying, “I remember I’ll share this. I’ve never shared this one with anybody, but I’ll give you this one.” Intrigued, Wallace prodded further and, upon discovering, shared, “I’m just telling you that he said this to me.” Wallace then related a snippet of Junior’s tale, “I had a piston in my hand at my desk, so this piston was in the motor of the car that I qualified quick time at Rockingham with and it was when I drove the Pennzoil DEI cars.”

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Wallace continued, “When you set quick time in a DEI car, they gave you the Piston as a trophy. Richie Gilmore, the motorman, did. So you’re going to want to tune in to see how this all transpired. I said Junior, do you remember these pistons? And he went, ‘Absolutely.'” The rest of this mysterious tale will be uncovered when the full episode is released this Sunday. Nonetheless, it was such a precious gem to glean an inside of the workings of the Intimidator’s empire.

Watch this story: Dale Earnhardt Jr Speaks Out on Chaotic Truck Series Race

Besides, Junior’s association with the piston went further than his Rockingham pole.

When Dale Earnhardt Jr “tried his *ss off” to be a part of the Cars franchise 

Dale Earnhardt Jr had an inspirational career in the Cup as well as the Xfinity Series. The 2 x Xfinity champion came close to winning the Cup Series championship but ultimately retired without that achievement. His animated counterpart, however, was awarded the Piston Cup in the year 2004, before the protagonist Lightning McQueen began accumulating the first of many championships in 2006. 

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Moreover, the man who dons many talented hats has voiced his own animated version in the Cars franchise. Interestingly, when Dale Jr was asked to record lines for a character named Junior who drives the #8 car in the Piston Cup, he was beyond thrilled. In his podcast, The Dale Jr. download, he recalled the effort he put in to secure a recurring role which, sadly, did not materialize.

“I went to their studio out in California to record that I’ll never forget… that was fascinating to me…their workplace is fun and enjoyable and it’s their creation, so that was pretty neat to see. I would have never guessed it was that elaborate, but I guess for a creative space, it makes sense. I remember going in there and reading my lines and there were only a couple. I had like three or four lines and I was trying my **s off so hard because I wanted to get more work.”

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It would be exciting to uncover the origin of the Piston Award in DEI as the full story comes out. In the meantime, we cannot wait for another sequel to Cars so that Junior can get another opportunity to unleash the hidden voice-actor within him. 

“I Regret That”- Dale Earnhardt Jr Painfully Turns the Pages on Missed Championship Opportunity

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Written by:

Parika Singh

246Articles

One take at a time

I began my motorsport journey in the European lanes of Formula 1, but after years of predictability, I ventured into the road courses and oval tracks of the United States. Upon discovering NASCAR, I was fascinated by the anecdotal gems waiting to be uncovered. Since I am a storyteller by heart, NASCAR gave me the perfect canvas with its cherished camaraderie and ancient rivalries.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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