Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death changed the entire landscape of NASCAR. The tragedy also left a strong imprint on Dale Earnhardt Jr. regarding his racing career future. It nearly led Dale Jr. to consider stepping out from behind the week in the race after the incident.
Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death left an everlasting impact
Dale Earnhardt Jr. spent more than two decades behind the wheel on the NASCAR track.
His journey began due to his desire to garner a stronger relationship with his father. Earnhardt Jr.’s life took a sudden turn after Earnhardt Sr. tragically died after a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.
The moment not only changed Dale Jr.’s life but the sport entirely. The devastating disaster also left him seriously considering not racing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits to not wanting to compete on a NASCAR track after dad’s death: ‘I didn’t want to run that race’
Earnhardt Jr.‘s NASCAR career took a completely different path after his dad’s tragic death.
It not only lifted him into a tremendously bright spotlight but tested his commitment to the sport on many occasions. During a recent interview on The Dan Patrick Show, the two-time Daytona 500 winner voiced he certainly thought about not racing, especially in the first race at Rockingham for the Dura Lube 400 one week after father’s passing.
“I have certainly may have thought about a time or two,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “To be honest, when we went to Rockingham after dad died, I didn’t want to run that race. I didn’t want to be by myself at home neither. I wanted to be at the race track and I wanted something to occupy my mind.
“I didn’t want to be home not racing. That would have been a miserable realization when they dropped the green flag and you’re not out there. Like ‘Oh this is a bad idea. I should have been in that race.’ I certainly wasn’t getting up that morning saying ‘Man I am looking forward to this.’ I just needed to be at the track, and I didn’t need to be behind the wheel.”
Earnhardt added that the intense emotions dwindled as time passed. However, the extended winless droughts lead him to voice he wanted to step away, but his brand and passionate fan base kept him going.
“On Monday when it didn’t go right, I would walk into the office and talk to my sister or somebody and I would say ‘I’m done with this. This is not fun. I am not having any fun. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ But the machine was so big and kept going. I couldn’t stop it.”
In other words, Earnhardt Jr.’s massive brand and following left a decision regarding his racing future out of his hands. He also stated he believes it was probably best that he couldn’t make that choice.
It’s this level of honesty and transparency from Earnhardt Jr. regarding his racing career that has greatly endeared him to fans and his peers alike.
Legacy remains forever tied to NASCAR
As Earnhardt Jr. moves through his life in retirement, he remains a fixture around NASCAR.
His various workings off the track continue to keep him relevant. He holds broadcast booth duties with NBC Sports, covering the second half of the season. Meanwhile, the Dale Jr. Download podcast is a platform he utilizes to routinely speak about the sport and his father’s legacy.
Earnhardt Jr. also maintains his retirement tradition of competing in one Xfinity Series race each season for JR Motorsports. Although he’s no longer behind the wheel, his presence will always be felt around the sport.