Dale Earnhardt Jr. Admitted He Only Learned How to Race Once He Left DEI
Dale Earnhardt Jr. found some sustained success throughout his NASCAR career. Earnhardt Jr.’s career took a sudden turn after choosing to surprisingly leave Dal Earnhardt Inc. (DEI). In his retirement from the sport, he made a fascinating admission concerning his professional driving career.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR career
Dale Earnhardt Jr. put together a NASCAR career that spanned over nearly two decades in the sport.
Although Earnhardt Jr. didn’t experience the level of success that his father, Dale Earnhardt, achieved, he did carve out a legacy that earned him a NASCAR Hall of Fame induction. The 46-year-old has a pair of Xfinity Series championships, 26 Cup Series wins, and 24 Xfinity Series victories.
Looking back at his career, Earnhardt Jr. believes the decision to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. opened the door for his career in another pivotal way.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits he learned how to drive after leaving DEI
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made the difficult decision in 2006 to announce that the 2007 season would be his last with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
The move changed the course of his career as he chose to sign with Hendrick Motorsports over the likes of Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. During an interview with In Depth with Graham Bensinger in September 2018, Earnhardt Jr. admitted that he only learned how to become a good driver once he left DEI.
“I didn’t learn how to be good at racing until I got at Hendrick [Motorsports],” Earnhardt Jr. said. “That’s nobody’s fault. I learned when I got to Hendrick when I got around Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon what being a really dedicated driver was really about.
“What being a professional was about. What applying yourself and being accountable was about.”
Earnhardt Jr. further explained in the interview that he feels like he should apologize to Tony Eury Sr. and Tony Eury Jr. for not being accountable. He doesn’t believe that he gave it his all to the craft due to the lack of dedication that he thought he should have had.
It’s a time in his career with DEI that he holds fond memories but didn’t feel like he got the most out of himself during that span.
Remains a strong part of his legacy
During his near-decade stint with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Dale Jr. experienced some respectable success with the company.
Earnhardt Jr. finished in the top five in the Cup point standings three times, 17 Cup Series wins (including his first Daytona 500 victory), and won a pair of Xfinity Series championships. Although he didn’t capture the ultimate goal of a Cup Series title, he did have his fair share of celebrations in victory lane.
His career with Hendrick Motorsports didn’t see him top the success he had with Dale Earnhardt Inc., but he garnered personal growth of becoming a more competent driver. He benefitted greatly from the opportunity to work alongside some of the sport’s greatest drivers in Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. That experience alone helped him learn the ropes of what it took to truly excel as a NASCAR driver.
It may not have translated to much personal success, but he did receive the structure he needed to have a sustained career that lasted nearly two decades. During his time with Hendrick Motorsports, he did capture his second Daytona 500 win and eight other Cup Series victories.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also finished inside the top 10 in the Cup Series points standings three times during that span. Ultimately, his experience with Hendrick Motorsports profoundly affected his NASCAR career and outlook on the sport.