Dale Earnhardt Jr. Details Father’s Explosive Reaction the Time He Showed Up Wearing Another Driver’s Gear, and How It Unbelievably Ended With It Being Set on Fire
Dale Earnhardt Jr. interviews guest on his weekly podcast, and oftentimes, it evokes memories from his own past, including memorable moments with his father. Some bad. Some good.
This week, during an interview with Tyler Reddick, the NASCAR Hall of Famer talked about the couple of times he wore gear representing another driver in his father’s presence. Both times it didn’t end well, and in one particular instance, it resulted in Senior setting the apparel on fire.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. interviews Tyler Reddick
Dale Earnhardt Jr. welcomed Tyler Reddick to the Dale Jr. Download this week, and it was unsurprisingly an entertaining conversation that touched on a variety of topics, including the 23XI Racing driver’s run-ins with three out of the four JR Motorsports cars during the recent Xfinity Series race in Fontana.
“Did you give some team orders or something?” Reddick joked. “Like, hey that 24 car looks too good. We got to rip the side of it off.”
“This is why being an owner – this is the sucky part of being an owner,” Earnhardt admitted.
“Yeah, because you have drivers and cars, and they run into friends,” the driver said.
“There’s things that happen on the race track and you’re like, ‘Oh my God,'” Junior said. “You know, you want your guys to go out there and race as hard as they can but then there’s things that happen and you’re like, ‘Man, now I got to go talk to this guy or call this guy or talk to an owner.'”
Earnhardt talks about angry father burning his gear
In addition to talking about racing, Earnhardt talked about life off the track, including Reddick being a father of a young son and how it has changed his approach to life. It was during that discussion that Junior asked the driver if he had thought about what he’d do if his son cheered for another driver in the future.
The two-time Daytona 500 winner admitted when he was a kid that he rooted for Jimmy Means because he knew the driver wasn’t ever a threat to beat his father on the track. But then he recalled a couple of times when he was just wearing the gear of another driver, and that set his father off and ended with an extreme response each time.
“Dad and Bill Elliott run into each other at the All-Star Race in 1987, and we go to Talladega, and they had these bootlegged shirts that said, ‘Guess who ran into me today?’ And it basically had Bill’s colors and Dad’s colors equally smeared across the shirt. Either fan could wear it.
“I took the shirt and went over to the Talladega short track. I’m 13. I had Dad’s number airburshed into the shirt. In my mind, now it’s Dad’s car. Look, there’s Dad’s door. I thought I had a badass shirt. I walked over to the Cup garage the next day or later that day, and Dad saw that thing and made me take it off right there. He was so mad at me. I was like, ‘What Dad? This is cool.’ And he was pissed off. And I was like, ‘But it’s your number. It’s your shirt.’ He was, ‘No.’
“He didn’t like the insinuation of conflict. He didn’t want his son walking around the garage and Bill seeing it, going, ‘What a little jerk that kid is.'”
“And the hat he took off. So my grandfather, Robert Gee, worked for Rick Hendrick, and Geoff Bodine drove his car. And Dad and Geoff would wreck each other all the time. Dad wrecked Geoff a bunch. I loved it. I loved when Dad would wreck Geoff. But I also loved my granddaddy, and I came home from his house with a Levi Garrett hat on, and that’s the one he yanked off my head and threw it on the ground and set it on fire.”
Senior was known for his temper
While Senior’s volatile reaction sounds extreme, it wasn’t out of the norm for him. Junior revealed as much in a 2021 Download episode when former DEI executive Ty Norris came on the show. During their conversation, Norris, who is now an executive at Trackhouse Racing, described an ugly incident with Earnhardt after he had injured his knee playing basketball, which Senior had banned his employees from doing after another employee had injured his knee while playing on the goal at work.
“He gets home from the race that night, and he calls me, and he’s like, ‘What time you going to come to the shop tomorrow?'” Norris recalled. “I was like, ‘I’ll be there early, but I just want to let you know, I tore my knee up pretty bad.'”
When Earnhardt asked how and Norris told him playing basketball, the response was unsurprising.
“He said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ and he slams the phone down,” Norris said. “He was so pissed.”
When Norris arrived at work the next day, he started walking toward Earnhardt and never could have imagined what would happen next.
“He could see which leg I was limping on, and he had to go to an appearance so he has like his Chase shirt on, jeans, and his boots,” he remembered. “He gets there close and he puts his hand for me, and right when I go to shake his hand, he picks up his leg and he kicked me right in the knee as hard as he could. Took me down. And he goes, ‘I told you to never play basketball! I’m not going to have my employees where they can’t be around!'”
“It freakin’ hurt,” Norris said, admitting he was in tears on the ground. “He was influential in everybody’s lives, but there are a lot of days where I just was like, ‘Get this man out of this office. Get this man on the back of that farm. Get him on a bulldozer. Get him in a happy place because he is a miserable son-of-a-b****.’ I couldn’t stand it.”
Kicking injured knees. Burning hats. He was The Intimidator on and off the track.
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