Dale Earnhardt Jr., a proud owner of two pups, is taking to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway track with a giant dog decal on his Nationwide NASCAR car
Dale Earnhardt Jr Courtesy Nationwide
Credit: Courtesy Nationwide

I’ve had pets in my life since I was a kid – a yellow Lab named Domino, Rocket the Irish setter, a boxer named Killer and several cats – Buddy, Cuz, Dude and Tux. I even owned hamsters, which were named after characters from the Days of Our Lives soap opera.

Today, my wife Amy and I have two dogs who bring so much personality into our house – Gus, an Irish setter, and Junebug, a Pomeranian. As true members of our family, we take them with us whenever we can and they love it. In fact, they would not have it any other way! As soon as I get out of the shower and start getting dressed, Gus anticipates a trip in the truck is near and will not leave me alone. When I get to the point of putting on my coat, Junebug gets into the act as well. Once I grab the car keys, it’s all over … they beat me to the front door with their noses pressed against it, just waiting for it to crack open for a sprint to the truck and a trip to somewhere, anywhere – they never care – they just want to be with us.

This weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, I will have a new dog riding with me. For the first time ever, the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS will have an image of a dog on it when I take to the track for Sunday’s race. Marshall, a one-year-old German shorthaired pointer from Stone Mountain, Georgia, was the winner of Nationwide’s Paws and Racing Sweepstakes.

His image will be featured on the back bumper of my No. 88 race car. I also look forward to meeting his owners at the race and hope to introduce them to both Gus and Junebug. When Nationwide launched the sweepstakes earlier this summer, tens of thousands of pet owners from across the country posted amazing photos of their pets on the Paws and Racing web site. Marshall was selected at random as the winner. I have no doubt he’ll bring me some extra speed and added luck throughout the race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Courtesy Nationwide
Credit: Courtesy Nationwide

If you can’t make it out to the track, be sure to be on the lookout for Marshall on the No. 88 car on NBCSN on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m. ET.

If your dog enjoys riding in the car with you as much as Gus and Junebug do, safety is of utmost importance. My friends at Nationwide®, the first and largest provider of pet health insurance in the U.S., offer these tips to ensure the safest ride with your furry, four-legged friends.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Courtesy Nationwide
Credit: Courtesy Nationwide

Based on more than 1.5 million pet insurance claims Nationwide processed last year, the most common medical conditions related to traveling with pets include motion sickness, heat stroke, lacerations and bruises. You can alleviate these medical maladies by taking precautionary measures.

  • Never leave your dog unattended inside a parked car for any length of time. Even on a cool day, the temperature inside the car is always higher than outside. Some dogs can start to have a heat stroke at 83 degrees. If you think leaving the car windows rolled down is a good solution, think again. Open windows do not circulate any cool air and it could end in theft of your dog or your car.
  • Depending on the length of the trip, refrain from feeding your pet a large meal before starting out, especially if it is their first ride. A few small snacks along the way will be better for their stomach. Bring plenty of water and even some ice cubes for your dog to lick to keep him from becoming thirsty or sick.
  • If your pet gets nauseous during car rides, talk to your veterinarian. There are medications that will ease an upset tummy.

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With the busy NASCAR schedule, we love to bring Gus and Junebug to the racetrack, but if we can’t, then there is nothing better than seeing their excitement when we get home from the track. As my travels lessen, Amy and I look forward to spending even more time with Gus and Junebug and keeping them safe and happy wherever our travels may take us.