Through sheet metal collection Dale Jr. gets piece of first NASCAR start

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It’s well known that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a collector of NASCAR history with a happy trigger finger when it comes to eBay.

Through it and the help of friends, the Hendrick Motorsports driver has begun building a very personal collection of sheet metal to go along with his car graveyard.

“One of my favorite things of all time is receiving or finding some old sheet metal that is either directly linked to me or my dad, obviously,” Earnhardt said Tuesday during the reveal of his 2017 Nationwide paint scheme. “I’ve had the opportunity to get some pretty unique pieces.”

Earnhardt has shared some of these pieces on Twitter, from the hood and decklid off an AcDelco car from his 1998 Xfinity season to the roof off a dirt car his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., drove in 1982.

But through his searching of the Internet, Dale Jr. had never seen anything from his first Xfinity start, which came on June 22, 1996 in the Carolina Pride / Red Dog 250 at Myrtle Beach Motor Speedway.

“The last piece that I received was the door off the right side of the car that I raced in my first Xfinity race,” said Earnhardt, who finished 14th in the event. “I had never seen this. Usually you’ll see, I do enough looking and searching on the Internet that you’ll see pieces that you recognize. I had never seen any part or pieces off this car for sale anywhere. But somebody ran across it and said ‘hey, you might want this.’ It was well within a reasonable price and I bought it.”

Now the piece of sheet metal, complete with a tire donut courtesy of Jason Keller, sits on a wall of a shop owned by Earnhardt.

“To get stuff like that back in your possession after … feeling like it’s gone forever is a great feeling. Some of the harder stuff to get is parts off those one-off cars. We ran that car one time and one time only. To get the side of that car is really incredible. We actually raced that car a few more times with different paint schemes, but we apparently must have cut the door off.”