Dale Earnhardt Jr. And Hank Parker Have Emotional Conversation About Dale Sr.: “He Never Was Able To Express How Much He Loved You”

Dale Earnhardt life
ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

This story will about make you wanna cry.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had Hank Parker, a well-known professional bass fisherman and close friend of his father Dale Earnhardt, on a new episode of his podcast The Dale Jr. Download this week.

And while it’s full of great stories about Dale Sr. that you’ve probably never heard before, seeing as Hank was his best friend, there was a moment on the episode that left Dale Jr. pretty much speechless.

Hank explained that Dale had confided in him about his relationship with his kids when they were much younger, admitting that he had a very hard time expressing to them just how much he loved all of them.

It’s no secret that Dale Jr. had a very complicated relationship with his dad while he was still alive, which was a stark contrast for both of them compared to the close bond Hank had with his son Hank Jr., also a close friend of Dale Jr.

Hank Sr. recalled a very specific conversation he had once after a day of hunting with Sr. about Dale Jr. in particular, and the whole time he’s talking, you can see from the look on Jr.’s face how deeply it affected him to hear all of this.

Hank explained that Dale Sr. told him:

“‘I don’t know how to love my kid like you love your kid.’

And I said, ‘Well we’re different, Dale. We’re different. You love him just as much as I love Hank Jr., you just don’t know how to express it.’

And he said, ‘Well, you know, I’m in broken marriages and I’m not married to their mom, and it’s hard.’

I said, ‘You just have to let go. You are who you are, and I know how much you love your kids, you just have a hard time expressing it.'”

He continued:

“And he never was able to express to you how much he loved you. He never was able, and you always felt like he loved you when you won, and he didn’t when you didn’t. And I could tell that.

And I’ve always wanted somehow to get you and just grab ahold of your shoulders and just tell you how hurt he was that he did not know how to express his love to you.

And he teared up, and for Big E, The Intimidator and I sitting in the living room, to share that with me showed me how tight we were at heart as friends.”

It really is a touching and beautiful story, and Hank says that moment also showed him a side of The Intimidator most didn’t get to see, in that he really was hurt in feeling as though his kids never knew how much he really loved them:

“But it also showed me a side of him that was sad, ‘cuz he really wanted to have the same relationship… I’m outgoing, I’m free to talk and I’m not intimidated to say ‘ I love you.’

All that didn’t fit his demeanor, but it was in his heart. He expressed to me that day, he said, ‘I don’t know how to love my kids like you love your kids.’

I said, ‘Oh, you love them just as much, you just don’t know how to express it.’ And that was heartfelt.”

Damn… what a story.

Dale Jr., who seemed pretty touched and taken back by the whole thing, laughed (kind of to keep from crying, I think) as he said:

“I’d have loved to have heard that story a long time ago.”

I can’t even imagine what it meant to him to hear that from someone who knew his dad better than pretty much anyone for so many years, especially knowing how much Dale Jr. has struggled with their less-than-perfect relationship and trying to hold himself to an insane standard to make his dad proud…

Though I think it’s very clear from this conversation, Dale Sr. loved all of his children unconditionally, no matter if they won or lost at anything they did in life.

Hank went on to tell another story that Dale Sr. actually kind of regretted setting his son up with Budweiser as a sponsor back in the day, saying that it wasn’t “good for him,” and Dale Sr. should’ve went with Burger King.

Hank said that it looked like Dale was doing really well, starting to win races and gain a reputation as a great driver in his own right, to which Sr. replied:

“That ain’t what I’m talking about… that ain’t what I’m talkin’ about. I don’t have him in the environment I’d like to have him in.”

Of course, Dale Jr. was a notorious party boy back in the day, and definitely enjoyed his fair share of beer and fun times, but it sounds like maybe his dad wasn’t a huge fan of that in a lot of ways, which is another great example of what a caring father he was, even if he had a different and unique way of showing it.

Hank also shared a very beautiful and personal story about witnessing to Dale and telling him about his faith in Jesus and sharing his testimony, though he wondered after Dale Sr. passed away if he’d ever truly been saved, because he felt like he was never able to get all the way through to him.

Hank and Dale Sr. both share personal stories and memories of the faith aspect of The Intimidator’s life too, saying they’re confident they’ll get to see him again one day in Heaven, which is another really neat peak into who he was and what he really valued and believed in.

You can watch that whole segment of the podcast below, and I’d highly recommend it (but you might wanna grab a tissue first):

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock