Dale Earnhardt Jr. experienced his fair share of tense moments involving fellow NASCAR driver Kyle Busch. The two held a well-documented rivalry that extended off the track. It led Earnhardt to hit a breaking point that pushed him to act uncharacteristically and end the long-lasting feud.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s bitter feud with Kyle Busch
Earnhardt Jr. began to experience issues with Busch after joining Hendrick Motorsports.
The latter believed that it was a move that took away any chance of him remaining with the company. The bitterness remained, leading to bickering back and forth through the media. It quickly resulted in the two becoming involved in a controversial crash during the Richmond spring race.
The lingering problems eventually pushed Earnhardt into hitting a breaking point with Busch after a practice run at Phoenix Raceway in 2014.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke character after pit-row dust-up with Kyle Busch: ‘If you ever flip me off again, I am going to rip your head off’
The longstanding feud between the drivers led Earnhardt to reach his breaking point during the 2014 season.
In an August 2021 interview on the Bussin’ With the Boys podcast, the two-time Daytona 500 winner discussed a tense moment involving Busch during a practice session at Phoenix Raceway as Earnhardt moved his car to the apron to head into pit row.
Busch, who was driving behind Earnhardt, immediately became angered as he believed that the No. 88 car was still too close to the track and decided to flip him off. Busch’s actions sent Earnhardt over the edge and led him to confront his colleague in his hauler.
“So the practice ends, I am debriefing my team, and I am frustrated with my car, and it’s been a bad season,” Earnhardt recalled. “I am gonna go to my hauler, and I see his hauler, and I am like, ‘I am going in there, and if he’s in there, I am going to confront him about it.
“I walked up into his hauler, which is an 18-wheeler trailer, and you walk to the very front of the trailer, and there is a lounge. In the lounge is Kyle and his crew chief. I know his crew chief very well, and I said, ‘Kyle, if you ever flip me off again, I am going to rip your head off. I am going to kill you and beat the hell out of you.’ I said everything I could say at that moment. I never do that. It was out of character for me. I was at a point where I needed to tell this guy to knock it off.”
In hindsight, Earnhardt is glad that Busch didn’t escalate the incident as he believes it would have ended in a nasty altercation.
“I didn’t want anything to happen where it would have gotten physical,” he said. “It would have probably easily gotten that way. It’s good that nothing happened where it became physical.”
Dale Jr. and Kyle Busch finally bury the hatchet
Despite the tense rivalry, the two buried the hatchet through their communication off the track.
Earnhardt said Busch reached out to him in 2018 to ask about similarities between Kyle Busch Motorsports and JR Motorsports. The 46-year-old also revealed that having him on the Dale Jr. Download podcast in April 2020 helped.
“I had him on my podcast, and we talked about Richmond,” Earnhardt said. “When he came into the sport, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Rick Hendrick were courting him, and he ended up going with Rick. I would see him and say, ‘Hey, man, are you going to drive for us?’ And he was like, ‘I don’t know. We will find out.’
“He was like, ‘Back then, I wanted to be your friend. You were the Bud guy and the fun guy. I wanted to be in your group. I was like, ‘Damn I didn’t know that.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I hated how things took off for us and things headed down this other path. Because when I was coming into the sport, I was thinking it would be cool to hang out and drink beers with you.'”
As bitter as things became during their rivalry, Earnhardt and Busch have found peace with each other.