But on a recent episode of his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download, Dale and former Executive Vice President of Motorsports at DEI Ty Norris recalled one particular time when Dale Jr. finally stood up to his father in a moment that led to what Junior calls “the greatest conversation” he ever had with his dad.
“I Ain’t Been a Pimple On Your A**”
It was back in 1997 when Dale Jr. was driving part time in the then-Busch Series, before he had even begun competing full time in NASCAR.
Junior was driving the #31 Wrangler car, and on this particular weekend he was attempting to qualify for the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Well before he even got to qualify for the race, Dale Jr. wrecked his car during practice. And he thought his career was over.
Junior went back home to hang out with some friends, drink some vodka and smoke some cigarettes.
But what he didn’t realize was that his team had loaded up his wrecked racecar and had brought it to the shop that was just across the street to fix it for the next race.
And then Dale Sr. showed up.
According to Junior:
“The door swings open, BAM! Slams against the washer and dryer. Dad comes walking in, he looks over at my buddies and goes ‘Get your fuckin’ shoes on and get off my property.’
And they grabbed their shoes and took off out the front door and drive down the road.”
Senior tells his son that his guys are across the street fixing his car right now, to Junior’s surprise.
Junior and his dad then walk out onto the front porch, where Norris (who had ridden to Junior’s house with Dale Sr.) was waiting outside.
According to Norris, at first Dale Sr. had just come over to check on Junior after his wreck.
But when Earnhardt realized that Junior was just hanging out at his house drinking with his friends while his team was working on his racecar, Dale Sr. was PISSED.
“He starts yelling at him about getting his shit together, about getting his life together, figure out what you’re gonna do, I’m trying to do all this stuff for you…”
Everybody probably knows that feeling, getting a reality check from your parents when they don’t think you’re living up to your full potential.
But then Junior stood up to his dad:
“He goes ‘I ain’t been a pimple on your ass for the last 10 years and all of a sudden you’re gonna come over here and start telling me all this stuff all of a sudden like it meant something.'”
Well according to Norris, at that moment, Dale’s face changed. And Norris recognized the father-son moment that was taking place and walked away.
According to Junior, what took place then was the greatest conversation he ever had with his dad:
“It was the first conversation, like first real talk, we had. And he went from ‘You’re fucking up, you gotta get your ass in gear’ to explaining to me…
It was the first time he really let me understand, like, this is for you, man. This is happening, all this, this is for you.
And we had a breakthrough.”
Man, what a moment.
And does Junior regret standing up to his dad?
Not at all.
“I’m glad I said that.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Most Important Moment With His Dad
I’ve always been a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr., even though I only started getting into NASCAR this year.
He’s just a likeable guy that’s engaging, entertaining and pretty open about a lot of areas of his life, both on and off the track. And he’s especially candid when it comes to the complicated relationship he had with his father.
Dale Jr. stopped by fellow driver Danica Patrick’s Pretty Intensepodcast last week, and while they talked a bunch of topics across the spectrum, they inevitably dove into growing up with NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. as a father.
Danica called it one of the “most open hearted honest interviews” she has done:
“This was truly one of the most open hearted honest interviews I have done. Dale Jr. told so many great stories about his personality, his goals, who his dad was, and what makes him happy.
The funny thing that happens when you work with (and for) someone as I did with Dale, is you don’t get this deep. You just deal with the current day to day issues or topics. So, this was really fun and interesting! So glad we did this Dale.”
He also shared a story regarding a touching article he wrote about his father for the racing magazine Winston Cup Scene.
It was a heartfelt essay detailing how he felt about his father, but he had to check it over with Dale Sr. first.
Here’s Dale Jr.’s side of the story:
“So I asked him if I could see him for a second. He’s up in his office at DEI. I go up there with that piece of paper, and I said, ‘Hey, I got this thing I wrote, and it’s about you. I want to put it in the Winston Cup Scene in a couple weeks, and I just need to make sure you’re ok with it.’
He takes it, and he reads it, and he stands up, and he starts walking around reading it… and he says, ‘You know, we never tell each other how we feel about each other, but in reading this, I know exactly how you feel.’
And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘Man, that’s exactly how I feel about you, and I didn’t know you didn’t know that, you know, that I thought you were this great, amazing thing.
And he was like, ‘I’m so glad you did this. I’m so glad you shared this with me.’ He doesn’t talk this way.”
And at that point, Danica admitted that she was choking up at Dale’s story which he later called the “most important moment” in his life with his dad.
“I think had that not happened, had I not had that written… that moment is the most important moment in my life with my dad, without a doubt.
We had won races together and stood in Victory Lane together, but to know that he knew how I felt about him is really important because knowing that he would pass away many months later.”