Brodie Butterfield, a tech worker in Australia, walked into his job one day and saw a colleague in a vintage Dale Earnhardt Sr. shirt. Earnhardt Sr., who won seven championships in the top-level NASCAR Cup Series before his fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, transcended the sport in his iconic No. 3 car. Butterfield thought he’d found a fan, greeting his colleague with: “Raise hell, praise Dale!”
It didn’t land.
“He looked at me like I had two heads,” Butterfield told ESPN. “I knew he was a casual Formula One fan, so I thought maybe he’d broadened his horizons. After probing, [it] turned out he had a tenuous grasp on what NASCAR even was.”
These days, that’s normal. Old-school NASCAR merch has been en vogue for years, whether it’s authentically vintage or freshly printed for PacSun. With the modern “Y2K” revival of ’90s and 2000s fashion, it’s only getting more relevant. Normal folks are in on it, and celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Justin Bieber and Diplo are, too. Drake wore an Earnhardt Sr. jacket in March and a Mark Martin one in April.
NASCAR streetwear is in. The challenge is bringing NASCAR along with it.
“The idea that Drake even mildly knows who my dad is, is cool to me,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. told ESPN. “I got a chance to interview him at the Kentucky Derby last year, and I don’t think he knew who I was. He still might not know who I am, but he’s wearing the jacket.
“I’m certain somebody said, ‘Hey, here’s who Dale Earnhardt was.’ He might have gotten at least a two-minute refresher course on what the jacket was all about. I think if that’s all it is, that’s great. But if Drake ends up coming to a race and wanting to learn more, I think that will encourage a lot of people outside of that NASCAR bubble to come check us out.”
Earnhardt Jr. said that’s always been the challenge: making NASCAR and its personalities mainstream, like his father or Jeff Gordon. If doing that means playing into nostalgia, the Y2K renaissance is the perfect time.
“It’s funny,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We kind of shift from decade to decade. We were obsessed with the ’80s. Before that, the ’70s. Now, everybody’s going: ‘Oh man, everything was better in the ’90s.’
“I think we should absolutely lean into the imagery and pop…
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