What is the Story Behind Dale Earnhardt Jr’s ‘Red Headed Stepchild’?

Published 03/12/2022, 9:18 AM EST
AVONDALE, AZ – JANUARY 31: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. addresses the media during NASCAR testing at Phoenix International Raceway on January 31, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

In an episode of the Dale Jr download, former NASCAR driver Steve Park made an appearance. He spoke about a number of topics, and one of them was about a certain car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. This machine, fondly known as the ‘Red headed Stepchild’, won the 1998 Kroger 200 at the Indianapolis Raceway Park.

TALLADEGA, AL – OCTOBER 15: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares to drive during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 15, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Park said, “We were using Hudson Pagan cars at the time. And this car was built by Mark Laughlin and his group. And they built the car, and we went picked it up and we did the body ourselves on it. The reason why it got the name ‘Red Headed Stepchild’ was because anytime somebody worked on the car—now, I remember the story, I was there 12 hours a day—so anytime somebody worked on the car and they put a bracket on the car, and I thought it was too heavy, I’d wait for them to go home at 4:30-5:00 o’clock, cut the bracket off.

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

What were the repercussions of doing this to a Dale Earnhardt car?

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

Evidently, nobody really appreciated the stunt and made their displeasure known. Nevertheless, Park’s work eventually paid off in spades. Of course, it was not instantly fast, but with a few tweaks, the car proved to be a l0t quicker. Despite this, he still had to weather everyone’s initial wrath.

He confessed, “Everybody got mad at me, that was working on the car, so everybody boycotted working on the car. And long story short, I finally got the car done, and we went to Nashville to test. . . . The car that we tested with for two days was pretty fast. I kept begging them, ‘Roll this car out! Roll this car out.’ So to appease me, they rolled the car out, and it was a tenth slower and then one change and it was a tenth faster.”

He continued, “Every car we had was painted gray, the frame was painted grey. Then we had the blue and red AC Delco and white body on it. He come in the shop and tells the guys, ‘you paint it bright red, get the inside’.

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

In the end, that car won the 1998 Kroger 200 at Indianapolis. He finished ahead of Elliott Sadler and Buckshot Jones. Additionally, he also bested Randy LaJoie and David Green, who finished 4th and 5th.

DIVE DEEPER

WATCH: Dale Earnhardt Jr Cheekily Gets His Leg Pulled by Podcast Co-Hosts Including Mike Davis

6 months ago

SHARE THIS ARTICLE :

ADVERTISEMENT

Dhruv George

13258 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Motorsports author for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

EDITORS' PICK