By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
All season long, tracks have been paying tribute to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will be retiring from full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of the 2017 season. At Talladega Superspeedway, where the Earnhardt name is synonymous with success, an unexpected tribute will be on track.
On Monday, Brad Keselowski announced via his blog (found here) that he would pay tribute to his friend, and former boss, with a special paint scheme. Keselowski’s No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion will mimic the No. 88 NAVY Chevrolet Impala that he drove for JR Motorsports in 2007 and 2008. The font of the sponsors and car number will be the same used a decade ago. A special message is also included on the rear quarter panels, ‘Cheers 2 Dale Jr.’
Keselowski said on his blog, bradracing.com, “to honor my friend and everything he’s done for me, we’re going to be racing with the scheme below this weekend, an homage to my days driving the NAVY 88.”
Keselowski often credits Earnhardt for the chance that he received. In 2007, Keselowski found himself out of a ride and possibly out of the car for good. In a perfect storm of circumstance and luck, he ended up subbing for Ted Musgrave at Memphis when Musgrave was suspended for intentionally wrecking another driver. Keselowski scored the pole and went on the contend for the win before getting wrecked himself.
Little did Keselowski know, he had a very important person watching the race on TV. Issues at JR Motorsports had led Earnhardt to part ways with Shane Huffman, his driver at the time. The decision on a replacement turned out to be an easy one and the rest is history.
During his tenure at JR Motorsports, Keselowski went on to finish third in points twice, winning six races. He also scored 33 top-fives, 53 top-10s, and three pole positions with the team. Eventually, Keselowski moved to NASCAR’s Premier Series with Team Penske, competing against one of his best friends on a weekly basis.
Keselowski continued with his heartfelt message on his blog, “I want to say this: Dale, there’s not a doubt in my mind that you’ll excel at whatever it is you do next, but it’s not going to be the same out there without you. I’m going to miss racing against you, my friend. I’m going to miss seeing you out there in the 88 on Sundays.”
Keselowski shocked the NASCAR world in 2009 when he won in a controversial and dramatic finish that saw Carl Edwards fly into the catchfencing and James Finch’s No. 09 Miccosukee Resorts & Gaming Chevrolet Impala in victory lane. In total, Keselowski has four career wins at the 2.66-mile restrictor plate track.
Now Keselowski will honor his friend as he attempts to earn as position in the Round of Eight in the NASCAR Playoffs.
This is awesome Brad. I appreciate you very much my friend. https://t.co/5oImuIrjIV
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) October 10, 2017