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In their fathers’ shadows: Famous auto racing families
With names like Earnhardt, Petty, Rahal, and Mears, one would expect immediate and long-lasting success on whatever race track their tires hit. But the next generation of drivers from these famous racing families hasn't necessarily had an easy time of it - from bad luck to lost sponsors, these five drivers prove that success isn't guaranteed with a famous last name.
Kerry Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
These half-brothers and sons of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt have had different levels of success in NASCAR, neither living up to the stature of their famous father. Kerry, Earnhardt's oldest son, ran in NASCAR's top three divisions - Cup, Nationwide, and Trucks - achieving a pole in the Truck Series and six top tens in the Nationwide Series; his greatest success came in the ARCA Racing Series, where he won four of 11 races he entered. Dale Jr., who started his career with his father's Dale Earnhardt Incorporated team, has won multiple times in the Cup Series and was the 1998 and 1999 Nationwide Series champion, but hasn't been able to put much of a season together since 2006, when he finished fifth in season-ending points. In that span, Jr. has won only once and had a best finish of 12th in Sprint Cup points.
The son of the Cup Series' other seven-time champ, his stats never came close to his multi-record-holding father, "The King" Richard Petty - in a career that spanned 30 years, Kyle won just eight races. He is possibly best known for his charitable work with the Victory Junction Gang, a charity he established in memory of his son Adam, who was killed in 2000 in a Nationwide Series practice crash.
The son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART champion Bobby Rahal, Graham still has time to rejuvenate his career - at the age of 21, he is far from washed up. The youngest person ever to win a major open-wheel race (19 years, 93 days), Graham spent the early part of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar season hunting down sponsors after losing his ride at Newman-Haas Racing due to a loss of sponsorship; he ran selected races for Sarah Fisher Racing before entering the Indy 500 for his father's rejuvenated Rahal Letterman Racing. He returned to Newman-Haas for selected races at the end of the season with a sponsor, and also raced again for Fisher and for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in relief of injured driver Mike Conway.
He not only had his father's reputation to live up to - Roger Mears was a successful off-road racer who also competed in NASCAR and CART - but that of his uncle as well - four-time Indy 500 champ and three-time CART champ Rick Mears. Casey competed in Indy Lights, CART, and IRL in the late 1990s before moving to NASCAR. With one win under his belt since 2003, Casey has been through his fair share of car owners in Sprint Cup - Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Richard Childress Racing among them. He has spent the 2010 season with various teams, but has plans to run the entire 2011 season for Germain Racing.
*Note: This article was written by an Associated Content Contributor. To become a Contributor and start publishing your own sports articles, go to Associated Content.
"About Me," dalejr.com
"About Kyle Petty," kylepetty.com
"Graham Rahal," grahamrahal.com
"Meet Casey," caseymears.com
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