Crashing has almost become second nature to Dale Earnhardt Jr. It’s part of his job as one of the top NASCAR drivers in the world of motorsports. Earnhardt Jr. said he learned what to do and how to handle some of those crashes from when he once crashed his pickup stuck on the street.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. grew up in the racing world
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s name recognition may have come from his father, but Dale Jr. has certainly made a name for himself. The younger Earnhardt was born into racing. Not only was his late father one of the biggest names in racing, but his grandfather was also a NASCAR car builder.
Although he grew up in a racing family, Earnhardt Jr. didn’t begin his racing career until he was 17, but he quickly climbed the ladder. In 2000, he had a breakout racing season in the Winston Cup Series and hasn’t looked back. He claimed his first victory in the DirecTV 500 and broke a record held by his father in the process. Junior’s win was the quickest in the fewest starts in NASCAR’s modern era as he won in his 12th start.
Earnhardt Jr. has gone on to become one of the top NASCAR drivers and is a member of the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. He is also a 2021 inductee to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In his NASCAR Cup Series career, Earnhardt. Jr has 260 top-10 finished in 631 races. He’s won 26 times. He claimed the Daytona 500 twice, winning in 2004 and 2014.
Earnhardt Jr. is no stranger to crashes
The most painful Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had to endure is the one involving his father back in 2001. On Feb. 18, 2001, Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500. He was pronounced dead at 5:16 p.m. after suffering a skull fracture.
Although the death was painful to Earnhardt Jr., he never let it deter him from racing. Earnhardt has been involved in numerous crashes throughout his career and has the concussions to prove it. In 2012, Earnhardt. Jr. was part of a 25-car crash at Talladega that forced him to sit out his next two big races. Two months prior to that crash, he had suffered another concussion.
In 2016, he had another setback due to concussions. Earnhardt Jr. was forced to miss the second half of the 2016 racing season. He was medically cleared to return for the 2017 season.
The valuable lesson Earnhardt Jr. learned from crashing his pickup
During an interview on the Hotboxin’ With Mike Tyson podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and podcast co-host Eben Britton were discussing crashing. Earnhardt Jr. said it’s impossible to describe what it’s like crashing to someone who’s never experienced it, but he did say he learned a valuable safety lesson from when he once flipped over his pickup truck. Earnhardt’s message is if you’re flipping over, grab whatever you can.
“If the car starts flipping, if you don’t grab a hold of anything – obviously the wheel is right in front of you so that’s the easiest thing to get a hold of. But if you don’t grab anything, your arms kind of go out because the centrifugal force is trying to throw everything away. So your arms start flailing and you can see that happen in crashes.
“I learned that on the street, actually. I flipped a pickup truck and learned that my arms would do that when the car starts flipping. So in the racecar, I was always pretty cognizant of grabbing that steering wheel when I started to feel the car get light and go up in the air.”