Dale Earnhardt Jr. headlines NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021 — Notes and quotes from NASCAR America on NBCSN

NBC Sports NASCAR analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. headlines the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021, which was announced exclusively this evening on a special edition of NASCAR America on NBCSN.

This marked Earnhardt Jr.’s first year on the NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot. Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the Class of 2021 are seven-time Modified Series champion Mike Stefanik, who represents the second inductee from the Modern Era ballot, as well as Red Farmer, who was selected from the Pioneer ballot.

In addition, Ralph Seagraves was named as the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

This evening’s special edition of NASCAR America was hosted by NBC Sports NASCAR commentators Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty, Steve LetarteKrista Voda and NBCSports.com writer Nate Ryan, featuring reactions and highlights from the inductees’ careers and contributions to the sport of NASCAR.  

“There’s no more deserving person to be elected as a first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer than Dale Earnhardt Jr., and our entire NBC Sports team congratulates Dale on this incredible honor,” said Sam Flood, executive producer and president, production, NBC and NBCSN. “Junior has been the face and the conscience of NASCAR for so many years. When he transitioned from driver to broadcaster for NBC Sports, his voice became connected to so many new fans, and he continues to help grow the sport of NASCAR.”

Following are quotes from tonight’s Hall of Fame edition of NASCAR America on NBCSN:

Earnhardt Jr. on the induction: “There’s no better compliment, there’s no better affirmation than from your peers and people that you work with and work around. This is such a great pat on the back for a lot of hard work and a lot of years in the sport.”

Jarrett to Earnhardt Jr.: “There’s one person out smiling everybody else up there (in Heaven) right now, and that’s your dad.”

Earnhardt Jr. to Jarrett: “I wouldn’t have survived [Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s passing] if it wasn’t for people like you. There was a lot of people in this industry that put their arm around me literally and figuratively and you were one of those people. I would turn and look over my shoulder and there you would be.”

Jarrett on Earnhardt Jr.: “He has moved the needle in NASCAR and made as big a difference as any driver that has ever come through this sport…Kyle (Petty) and I come from famous fathers and had to live up to a lot of expectations, but nothing like what was thrust onto Dale Earnhardt Jr., and he accepted that responsibility. He didn’t ask for this – he didn’t ask to have to be the most popular driver or to carry on that legacy of his dad, it was just put on him automatically…it’s not just that he has done it, but that he continues to do it, and it’s great to have him as one of our colleagues at NBC.”

Letarte on Earnhardt Jr.: “It’s very clear what his record was on the race track – so many wins, a couple of Daytona 500s – but I really think it’s what he did outside of the race car that makes it so special for me. To carry the responsibility of being the most popular driver and the way he did it, always being a man of the people and a man of the fans, said what he wanted, said it how he wanted whether it was accepted or not. He taught me a lot as a driver of my race cars and as a good friend.”

Petty on Earnhardt Jr.: “He has done so much to connect this sport to the fans. His dad was a throwback and connected this sport to the fans, and Dale Jr. carried on that tradition. Winning the Daytona 500, winning big races – but what he’s done as the most popular driver and as ambassador for this sport is unparalleled, in so many ways. This is a great group and a great class.”

Jarrett on Red Farmer: “I think he’s probably affected all of our lives in one way, shape or form. He was always there to talk to and discuss racing and driving cars. I talked to him just a few weeks ago, just to check in and see how he was doing. He was telling me that he was ready to go race on a dirt track down there…this Pioneer Award is made for someone just like Red Farmer. He’s done so much for the sport over so many years.”

Letarte on Mike Stefanik: “Mike Stefanik was one of my heroes. I’m a New England kid…practice didn’t matter, qualifying didn’t matter, his name was on the list of must-watch every time the green flag flew. It’s great to see gentlemen like Mike who had so much success in other series of NASCAR get the recognition of what they’ve done in NASCAR…from a fellow New Englander, it’s always great to see a modified driver get the recognition.”

NBC Sports PR