Dale Earnhardt Jr. never flinched when traveling at speeds in excess of 200 mph during his NASCAR Cup Series career. Now retired, Junior has participated in a single race on the Xfinity Series in each of the last three years, but still manages to run laps as a part of the Dale Jr. Foundation and its ride-along program. In a recent episode of his podcast the Dale Jr. Download, Earnhardt talked about what it’s like with a passenger riding shotgun and how he feels fans don’t get the full experience traveling just 170 mph.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes fans for ride alongs
For 15 straight years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was voted the most popular NASCAR driver before he retired following the 2017 season. Since retiring from a full-time race schedule, Earnhardt has participated in a single race on the Xfinity Series schedule each year.
Just because he’s not getting in any competitive laps doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not getting in any laps at all. Earnhardt has been able to extend that popularity with his fans in a very unique way — driving with them around several NASCAR tracks.
It’s all part of the Dale Jr. Foundation and it’s Ride with Dale Jr. program, which offers fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride shotgun with Earnhardt for a few laps around tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes fans get cheated just going 170 mph
In a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download, Earnhardt said he’s taken fans on ride alongs around Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. He said despite flying around the track at 170 mph at Charlotte, he believes fans get cheated of the full experience.
“We go to Charlotte. At Charlotte, I can run 170 (mph), but the (Cup) cars are running much faster than that. I feel like we’re only getting about three-quarters of the experience. We go to Bristol. We ran that car and I was like second off of the pole speed or hot laps in practice. The laps that we were running, that’s about what they run on old tires at Bristol. In my mind, I felt like we were getting a much more similar experience like what the Cup guys are getting there.”
While the fans traveling around Charlotte at 170 mph will likely beg to differ about being cheated of the full experience, Earnhardt’s feelings show just how much he cares about the fans and wanting to provide them with an experience as authentic as possible.
One familiar fan didn’t care for the speed at Bristol
On that same episode of his podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about one of his ride-along experiences and how it became memorable because of who it was and the unexpected reaction.
Earnhardt said he took his sister Kelley out around Bristol recently and what happened caught him by surprise.
“We usually do them at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and they’re pretty fun there. At Bristol, we did it for the first time, and it was a really amazing experience. I think for the person riding along, it was as profound or hard-core as you could probably make that for somebody. A lot of people going into it not knowing what’s going to happen; it’s over before they really have a chance to ask you to stop or slow down or freak out.
“My sister, having had some driving experience, I think she kind of had an idea of what this might be like, and she got to that point much quicker of, ‘Hey, this is fast enough. I don’t want this anymore.’ She’ll disagree. She might say, ‘No I was saying go faster.’ I felt like that she really was surprised, I guess, by what that experience was like riding in a car at Bristol because it’s unlike any other race track.”
Bristol is unlike any other race track and Earnhardt is unlike any other driver. He’s as genuine as they come and truly lives and breathes the sport even years after retiring. And that’s why he was and still is so popular today.