Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had a major beef with Jimmy Spencer since July 2001. That’s when Spencer questioned the legitimacy of Junior’s win at Daytona, just five months after his dad tragically died on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
Through the years, Earnhardt has been vocal about his disdain for Jimmy Spencer, calling him names and refusing to invite the former driver on his podcast as a guest. However, in recent months, Earnhardt had a change of heart. This past week, Spencer finally appeared on the show, and when the subject of the July 2001 race at Daytona came up, it was an uncomfortable moment that ended with Earnhardt admitting that he cheated in the race.
Jimmy Spencer questioned legitimacy of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win at Daytona in July 2001
Just months after Dale Earnhardt Sr. tragically died on the last lap of the Daytona 500, Dale Jr. claimed the third Cup Series victory of his career during NASCAR’s summer return to the Florida track. It was undoubtedly one of the highlights of Junior’s career and provided some semblance of healing for the racing community.
Jimmy Spencer didn’t see it at all that way. Moments after the race, he questioned the legitimacy of Earnhardt’s victory.
“I knew going in that the 8 car (Earnhardt) was going to win this race,” Spencer told reporters. “Something was fictitious, and he was really fast the other night. They were fast down here in February. It’s not ironic that the 8 car would win with what happened here in February.”
Several days later, Earnhardt fired back.
“It’s really bothered me pretty bad,” Earnhardt admitted. “That’s like the biggest race of my career. That was my biggest win. Aside from the wins that I had when my father was there, that is going to be a day that I’ll always remember. For somebody to question its credibility, question my credibility, I feel like that’s a slap in my face, a slap in my father’s face and a slap in (crew chief) Tony Eury’s face.”
Earnhardt still holds grudge toward Spencer years later
While Spencer retired from racing in 2006 and Earnhardt in 2018, the animosity never faded. As recently as August 2019, Earnhardt openly admitted his continued hostility toward Spencer for his remarks.
“Jimmy Spencer claimed as soon as he got out of the car that there was something fishy about my 2001 Daytona July win,” Earnhardt told co-host Mike Davis, who also worked with Spencer. “The greatest moment in my career. Great night for our company, our team. Everybody is out there celebrating, and he’s standing in the garage with a microphone in his face going, ‘That’s fishy. That car’s too good.’ What an a——. Still is an a——. I don’t care. He ain’t never coming on this show.”
Earnhardt has apparently never heard the phrase “never say never.”
Spencer appears on show and things get uncomfortable, including an admission of cheating
After years of grudges, Jimmy Spencer finally appeared on the Dale Jr. Download. Earnhardt appeared somewhat anxious and understandably avoided diving right into the subject. However, when he finally did broach the subject, he ended up taking a peculiar approach.
“I don’t think I ever drove a legal car. I hope I haven’t. And I don’t want to,” Earnhardt said, which produced a confused look by Spencer before Earnhardt continued. “I want my crew chief to be as aggressive as they possibly can be. I don’t think that the 2001 July Daytona winner was a factory-legal, by-the-rulebook car. Everybody had to do whatever they needed to do to try to win the race. I’m sure there was some great creativity in the car. And I wouldn’t have had any problem with anybody questioning the legality of my race car. I just think it was frustrating because you made it sound like that it was a fix from the top.”
“I did say it that way,” Spencer acknowledged.
“I guess now, after hearing your experiences with NASCAR, you talked about getting behind the curtain early in your career and hearing about some of the strings that they were willing to pull and how they would twist and turn things for the show,” Earnhardt said, referencing Spencer’s earlier comments about NASCAR deliberately working against him on multiple occasions. “You were, at that time, more privy to the shenanigans. I would have sat there in July 2001 and said they’re straight. They’re on the up and up but you had a different opinion and you had a different experience.”
“It bothered me,” Earnhardt said, returning to Spencer’s initial 2001 remark. “But it’s good to sit here and talk about it. It’s good for me anyways. I don’t know if it’s good for you to sit here and talk about it.” Spencer and Earnhardt both laughed.
The whole exchange, while awkward, sounded therapeutic for Earnhardt, as is often the case on many of his podcast episodes. And it provided some closure for both men and all the Earnhardt fans who have held resentment toward Spencer for years.