Dale Earnhardt Jr. Disobeyed Budweiser’s Orders In His Emotional First Race Win After His Dad’s Death

NASCAR was shaken to its core following Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500. His passing left a massive void in his son’s life, but Dale Jr. chose to push forward with his racing career. During his unforgettable first win following his father’s death, Earnhardt Jr. dealt with a behind-the-scenes controversy during the race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. earns his first win after dad’s tragic death

RELATED: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is Worth $300 Million, but His Ideal Day Once Consisted of Nothing More Than Drinking Beers at Walt Disney World

Dale Earnhardt Sr.‘s death during the 2001 Daytona 500 left a massive void for the sport.

Dale Jr. continued to push forward with his racing career to honor his father and their family legacy. All that guided him toward one of his most emotional race victories.

In July 2001, Earnhardt Jr. managed to squeeze out a win at the Pepsi 400, held at Daytona International Speedway. It marked his first victory after his dad’s death and took place at the same track where that tragic incident had unfolded months earlier.

Earnhardt Jr. dominated the race that day as he led 116 of 160 total laps. He fell from the lead to the sixth spot with six laps left to go. However, he managed to move his way back up to the top position to grab the win, capped off by his teammate Michael Waltrip protecting him on the last lap.

Beyond all the emotions that flowed from that win, Earnhardt Jr. dealt with a minor controversy with his sponsor during the race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. disobeyed Budweiser’s orders in his emotional first race win after his dad’s death

RELATED: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Calls Out Rick Hendrick for Mistake He Made Not Signing Top Driver

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s proudest moment of his NASCAR career left an everlasting memory for many reasons beyond it being his first win after his dad’s death.

What wasn’t publicized was that Earnhardt Jr. went through a controversial internal issue with his sponsor, Budweiser. In his No. 8 car, he chose to place a skull-and-crossbones sticker, a symbol associated with death and poison.

Budweiser said the sticker conflicted with the company’s messaging since they’re in the alcohol business. Despite that, he decided the night before the race to sneak into the car and put the sticker on the dashboard.

“Just a sticker I thought was cool,” Earnhardt Jr. voiced via Reddit. “So I snuck it into the car and stuck it on the dash that night. Bud was pissed off because of the connection of that symbol with poison.”

He brushed it all aside, but it wasn’t until years later that he learned Budweiser had asked to remove the sticker during the race.

“They actually asked our team if I could remove it during the race,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I didn’t get that information till years later.”

Unforgettable NASCAR moment he will cherish forever

RELATED: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Believes His Dad Would Have Been Proud of Him Because of His Wife

The controversy didn’t prevent the pivotal win in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR career.

He has a tremendous appreciation for the victory given the emotional connection to his father. After all, he had a strong personal tie to his dad, which he has only further cherished the older he becomes.

One of Earnhardt’s passions in his life is finding various ways to both honor and strengthen his father’s legacy. The win on the track at Daytona that day is one of the shining moments.

All the outside noise that lingered for years doesn’t take away from the special place it holds in Earnhardt’s life.