Published June 18, 2012
Did Batman help Dale Earnhardt, Jr. end his four-year losing streak?
The driver won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory on Sunday at the Michigan International Speedway, ending an 143-race drought, driving a special No. 88 inspired by the upcoming Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
“I had a hand in developing or designing all four cars, and this is the black car that we came up with,” Earnhardt told FOXNews.com exclusively last week while testing the car at the two-mile track in Brooklyn, Mich. “It has some of the characters' faces, so it ghosts into the theme, and the logo of the movie itself is on the hood, so we’re excited. We’re happy to be here in Michigan, and we’re looking forward to running this Sunday with the paint scheme, and I hope we’re going to win.”
And he did. Earnhardt pulled away for the final 25 laps of the 400-mile race, crossing the finish line 5.393 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart, an eternity in car racing.
“Yeah, I want to win a championship,” Earnhardt said of his racing goals. “I haven’t won a championship yet. I want to win a lot more races, obviously. I got a lot of years left and lot of drive and determination in me, and this has been one of my best years, so we’re excited about the opportunity to fight for the championship this year.”
Earnhardt is a big fan of the comic book icon that may have become his lucky charm.
“I’m a Batman fan from way back,” Earnhardt explained. “I used to watch the original TV series when I was little, and I’d seen the first movie that they made with Michael Keaton, and every one after that, so I’m a fan of Batman and the Batmobile, and the Tumblers (here at the race track). Being a car guy, I can get into that part of the movie and understand the Batmobile as an icon of film.”
When Earnhardt’s at home in North Carolina, he tools around in a ’48 Chevy pickup truck, and dreams of bringing NASCAR races closer to home.
“I’ve got a driveway, actually,” Earnhardt said with some understatement. “It’s a big loop, and I’ve done all of the work on it myself. I think it’s probably a mile and a half or two miles. But it goes all through the property, and I think that would be an awesome racetrack if we had a race on it.”
Maybe he could invite Danica Patrick for a heat on his driveway?
“She’s actually drives for one of the race teams that I own in the Nationwide series,” said Earnhardt. “Danica’s done a great job for us, so we’ve been real happy to be a part of her success and watch her come into the sport. She brings in a new demographic, a female demographic, and I believe she’ll turn on new race fans to our sport over the next several years.”
When he’s not racing, Earnhardt dreams of returning to Hollywood, perhaps to star in the sequel to “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
“I’m waiting on the phone to ring,” he laughed.
Earnhardt’s favorite fizzy beverage, Mtn Dew Dark Berry, was also a part of No. 88’s winning formula.
“It’s really, really, really good,” declared Earnhardt. “It’s brand-new, but it’s a limited edition, so I don’t know how long it’ll be around, so you better gobble it up while you can.”