“I Knew That’d Get Me A Whooping” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. Recalls The First Time His Dad Caught Him With A Cigarette

Dale Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt Jr
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We all know how hard it can be pleasing our parents sometimes.

But imagine if that parent is Dale Earnhardt, a man who was not only a legend in NASCAR but also a guy who was nicknamed “The Intimidator” because of his attitude and driving style.

Yeah, that’s gotta be some pressure.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has talked a lot about growing up as the son of one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers, and the conflicts that they two had over the years.

Junior’s always been known as more of a laid-back guy, somebody who liked to joke around, hang out and drink beer with his friends. Then you have The Intimidator, a steely, no-nonsense guy whose sole focus was seemingly on winning races and being a success on the track.

So when those two personalities came together? It made for some incredible – and sometimes hilarious – stories, like this one that Junior told on an episode of his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download.

It was the first time his dad had ever caught Dale Jr. with a cigarette. According to Junior, his dad had seen the ashtrays in his house before when he didn’t have time to hide them, but he had never actually seen Junior smoke – or even seen him with a pack of cigarettes.

“I knew that’d get me an ass whooping.”

But in 2001, the two drivers were sharing seat time in a Corvette Racing entry during the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.

Earnhardt Sr. was set to drive the car first, with Junior taking over for his dad a few hours later. But before the race started, Junior got an unexpected call from his dad to come to pit road.

Apparently Earnhardt wanted a father/son picture of the two on the grid before the race, and was on his way to pick up Junior from his bus for the photo op.

But Junior admits he was nervous for the race, and while he was hanging out in his bus, he was goofing around and trying to get rid of some of that nervous energy.

And an important note for this story: It was also the first time Junior would be wearing a full-face helmet, as opposed to an open-face helmet that his father was known for wearing (and was popular in the sport until they were eventually banned in the wake of Earnhardt’s death). But because the helmets covered the entire face, there was a hole in the front of the helmet to insert a straw so that the driver could still drink fluids during the race.

And I’ll let Junior take it from here:

“I’m standing in my bus and I put that helmet on and I stuck a cigarette in that little thing where the drink goes. And I’m standing right at the door of the steps, and I’m doing this dance.

I’m like, ‘Hey, look at me, look at me man, look at that cigarette, you can smoke.'”

Now, Junior clarifies that the cigarette wasn’t lit. But anyway, it was about that time that his dad got to his bus to pick him up:

“I’m like, ‘Check it out man, you can smoke wearing this helmet’ to my buddy.

Right in that moment, dad opens the door. He looks straight up in there at me. I turn, I’ve got this helmet on with a cigarette sticking out of it and we’re getting ready to start the 24 Hours of Daytona, this Corvette thing. It’s a big day…

He slammed the f*cking door. He slams the door shut.

My freakin’ eyes were as big as sand dollars. I pull this helmet off and I set it down and my buddy’s like, ‘We better go.’

We go out and the golf cart’s sitting there and dad’s sitting on the front of it, and he’s got the driver, and he’s steaming. Smoke coming out of his ears, he won’t even look at me. 

We sat on the back, and we’re riding in the infield at Daytona heading towards the grid. And we go about 100 yards and my buddy just starts snickering. And dad turns around and goes, ‘Don’t f*cking encourage him.'”

Oh man. That had to have been an awkward golf cart ride.

Luckily Junior said that the entire incident was quickly forgotten by the time they got to the starting grid with so much else going on. And it’s obvious that Junior thinks the whole situation is hilarious now – because he couldn’t stop laughing while telling the story.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock