Focused on racing, he was rarely around for most of Dale Jr.’s childhood, and even when he was around, he was a tough critic. The same drive and instincts that made him great on the track didn’t necessary translate to fatherhood all the time.
However, as Dale Jr. grew up, Dale Sr. grew from hard-nosed NASCAR Cup Series superstar into a much more loving father figure.
In an extremely candid, and tearful interview, with Graham Bensinger, NASCAR’s Dale Jr. opens up about his relationship with his father, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr.
“He was a hard person to impress and I don’t know that he was really thrilled with me as a kid. I never measured up to his hopes for my initiative and my determination.”
Ultimately, after a childhood of disappointment, Dale confessed that the only reason he got into racing was to earn his father’s love.
“We didn’t really have a relationship, we didn’t communicate much, we didn’t go hunting together, he didn’t take m on trips… I was never an idea or a consideration. I didn’t build a relationship with him until I raced.
The only reason I raced was to get closer to my dad. Nothing I did would register with him. Not that I was doing a lot, I was an average student so I wasn’t impressing him that way… finally when I started racing and I won a couple racesm we would talk about it.
I got more and more into racing because it would get me closer to dad.”
Also, Dale Jr. tearfully confessed that for a large part of his childhood, Dale Sr. simply wasn’t there.
“He missed graduation… I played soccer in high school and he never seen a game, but he missed my graduation, I was really disappointed in that.
I have no pictures of my his school graduation… not a damn decent photo. I went to it, and had my gown on and went home. Dad wasn’t there, they were racing somewhere.”
However, Dale Sr. didn’t die that way, by the end of his life, he was a present father and Dale Jr. wishes he could still be around to see his grandchildren.
So when asked if Dale wants to do things differently, so his kids don’t grow up the same way, he doesn’t quite think of it that way:
“I doesn’t cross my mind, like ‘man, I’m gonna do it differently… I don’t even realize how it happened to me until I sit down and think about it.
So when I deal with Isla, I think, ‘God, I wish dad could be here to see her,’ because I know he isn’t that same person… when he died he wasn’t the guy that would miss his son’s graduation.”
Watch the full, heartbreaking, interview below.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. To Make His Lone Xfinity Series Start At Martinsville
The 26-time NASCAR Cup Series winner, broadcaster, and JR Motorsports team owner, and son of the great Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that he’ll be making his lone Xfinity Series start of the season this Friday at Martinsville Speedway, according to NASCAR.com.
The Hall of Famer tweeted out:
“I sat in my Xfinity Hellmanns Chevy today to make sure everything fits.
I made some engine sounds. I turned the wheel, wrestling the car through a fictitious corner. I tilted my head against the imaginary g forces. I mashed the pedals and shifted the gears. Felt pretty good tbh.”
I sat in my xfinity @Hellmanns Chevy today to make sure everything fits. I made some engine sounds. I turned the wheel, wrestling the car through a fictitious corner. I tilted my head against the imaginary g forces. I mashed the pedals and shifted the gears. Felt pretty good tbh.
Earnhardt retired from full-time Cup Series racing after 2017, however, each year he’s managed to make at least one Xfinity Series start his JR Motorsports team.
He finished 14th at Richmond last year, 5th at Homestead-Miami in 2020, 5th at Darlington in 2019 and 4th at Richmond the year after he retired… not bad, eh?
Friday will be his first Xfinity Series start at the Ridgeway, Virginia, short track.
Earnhardt will drive the #88 Hellman’s Chevrolet on Friday night, with a special steering wheel.
The orange and camouflaged steering wheel will be auctioned off after the race to raise funds to battle food insecurity through The Dale Jr. Foundation’s partner charities.
When @DaleJr climbs behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet this Friday night at Martinsville Speedway, he’ll be doing much more than steering a racecar, he’ll be helping those experiencing food insecurity.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Recalls The First Time He Flipped His Car At Daytona
I can’t imagine what it would be like to drive around a NASCAR track at 200 mph with those insanely steep banks.
Hell, if I even get anywhere close to 100 going down the interstate (and who hasn’t let loose a time or two) I feel like I need to slow it down a shit ton, before I lose control.
Needless to say, it takes some guts to get behind the wheel of these machines.
When you watch a NASCAR race and you see an awful wreck, with one or two cars flipping, you can’t help but think about what’s going through the driver’s minds as it goes on.
Are they thinking “this is the end?” Are they cool, calm, and collected?
I can’t imagine, nor do I ever want to experience it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast a few years back, and talked about his first experiences as a full-time NASCAR driver…
And that includes his first time flipping a car.
“When I flipped for the first time… I thought to myself, I wasn’t scared or I never was scared of flipping… my thought was I just did something a lot of people are never going to experience.
I did something that only a few people know what that’s like. And I feel safe, I’ve always felt incredibly safe inside the car, you know, especially in the last 20 years the safety stuff has really been focused on and improved… better and better and better.
I look at the interior of cars today versus 20 years ago, and can’t believe some of the stuff we used to climb into.”
Rogan had to pause Jr., in shock that he was calm throughout his first time flipping, and he responded:
“Well I’ve seen cars flip, right? I’ve seen it for years… so I know it’s possible.
In 1998 I was racing in Daytona, and got turned around, and the car, so I’m flipping for the first time in my life. This car is like over 3,000 pounds, but it flies up in the air like it’s paper, it’s crazy… it’s so weightless.
What it felt like to me… so the car rolled on its side and came down kinda on its side. It felt like somebody rolled a prop wall of grass up against the car… I felt like I was flipping right side up because the force pushes you down in the seat. You feel gravity all the time.
You feel the weight of yourself in the seat and it never changes, you never come up out of the seat… it’s just the weirdest feeling. You feel completely safe.”
Dwight Yoakam Performs At Dale Jr.’s NASCAR Hall Of Fame Party
And of course, it sounds like there was a hell of an after party, which was held at the Charlotte concert venue The Fillmore… with plenty of High Rock vodka and Budweiserto go around, I’m sure.
In one of the coolest moments of the night, other than Dale Jr. taking his place in the HOF alongside his father, Amy Earnhardt pulled off an epic surprise: Dwight Yoakamshowed up to put on a show for everybody:
“What a night! Amy Earnhardt surprised Dale with a very special guest.. scroll to find out!”