Earnhardt Jr.'s Car Graveyard
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on June 19, 2014 | 6:17 P.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car from Texas earlier this year is one of dozens of wrecked cars dotting his property. (Photo: Dale Earnhardt Jr.)
They inhabit the forest, providing surprises along the way. Some are easy to spot, others partially hidden by the brush. Just like deer, their numbers steadily grow.
Dirty Mo Acres, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s wooded paradise is their home. While the NASCAR Hall of Fame displays some of the sport’s most successful cars, Earnhardt’s land is the final resting place for cars and trucks that didn’t make it to the finish line.
As you go along the path, you never know what you’ll see next.
In the shade is the car Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer during the Daytona 500. Over there is Dennis Setzer’s Nationwide car that bucked like a bull into the fence at Talladega Superspeedway as its spewed parts and pieces amid a fireball.
Look up. In the trees is a tub from one of Will Power’s IndyCars. Now look over there and see the car Brad Keselowski destroyed at Road Atlanta when his brakes failed and he sailed off course into a concrete barrier, breaking his ankle.
Keselowski has numerous cars in these woods - “too many,’’ he says - with many from his time driving for JR Motorsports. He’s not the only Sprint Cup champion whose bad times are memorialized here. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are each represented.
Near one of Gordon’s cars is one of this year’s newest additions. It’s Justin Allgaier’s car that was destroyed in a crash with David Gilliland last month at Kansas Speedway. The shell of Gilliland’s car, missing part of the trunk and all of the front, also rests in these woods.
“The way the car gets there is not ideal, but, at the same time, to know that Dale Jr. reached out and wanted that in there, that’s cool to me,’’ Allgaier said.
He likes how Earnhardt preserves a part of history with these mangled machines. Allgaier also appreciates having one of Gordon’s Rainbow-colored DuPont cars near his.
“How cool is that?’’ Allgaier said. “I can remember watching that car as a kid and just being completely enthralled by that car and what Jeff and all the guys at Hendrick Motorsports were doing at the time.’’
Earnhardt never planned on being a curator of this menagerie. It’s just happened, beginning with his JR Motorsports cars.
“I couldn’t see throwing them away or scrapping them so we’d stick them in the woods,’’ Earnhardt said.
He estimates 80 cars are scattered throughout his property with about half of them JR Motorsports cars. He’s added the Sprint Cup car that he wrecked at Texas earlier this year.
Keselowski, also a son of a racer, understands Earnhardt’s desire to keep wrecked cars.
“A car to me signifies so much work and so much spirit,’’ Keselowski said. “A car is a product of hundreds of hours of labor. To see them get crushed or thrown away is so tragic to me. Even though it might be called a graveyard, the car lives on.’’
That’s what makes a trip back in the woods fun for Earnhardt and others.
“There’s all kind of quirky stuff back there,’’ he said. “My property manager has a weird sense of humor. He’ll stick those things in some odd places. He got a truck from Brad Keselowski that he nosed into the side of the creek. It’s half-buried in the creek and funny looking sticking out that like that.
“We go back there riding through there in the golf carts and my mom goes walking back there… you see something new every time.”
Not seen is any of Clint Bowyer’s cars, though.
“I try to make a practice of staying out of Junior’s Graveyard,’’ Bowyer said with a smile. “Work really hard on that. Every weekend. Focus on that one thing. Stay the hell out of Junior’s Graveyard.’’
It’s worked so far.
For others, it means something to see their car there
“I did tell (Earnhardt) that if he got my car, I would need an open invite to come see it anytime I wanted,’’ Allgaier said. “He just said ‘Call me or text me.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t have his phone number.’’
Maybe some day.
As more cars wreck, Earnhardt’s collection will increase. He has plenty of land to continue his version of NASCAR’s Stonehenge.
“It will be there way after I’m gone,’’ Earnhardt said. “Someone will walk back there and say, ‘What the hell is this doing here? And who put it here?’ ‘’
Like Stonehenge maybe the question will go unanswered then, but it likely will be quite a sight.