Dale Earnhardt Jr. competed on the NASCAR track for more than two decades. Earnhardt‘s time behind the wheel quickly became intertwined with his dad’s legacy. However, the two-time Daytona 500 winner has shot down the belief he raced in his father’s shadow.
Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s impressive NASCAR career
Before Dale Sr.’s passing in 2001, he strung together an iconic career that cemented himself as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers.
Earnhardt earned a strong reputation behind his aggressive driving style that garnered the nickname “The Intimidator.” He competed for four decades, winning 76 Winston Cup races with seven Winston Cup championships, tied for the all-time mark with Richard Petty and Jimmie Johnson.
His tremendous success also helped him receive prestigious honors such as inductions into the Motorsports Hall of Fame (2002), International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and part of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class (2010). As the son of a NASCAR legend, Dale Jr. shot down a long-standing notion about his racing career.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. flat out shoots down the notion he raced on NASCAR tracks in his dad’s shadow: ‘If I was, it was a hell of a place to be’
Earnhardt Jr. ventured into racing as a means to garner a closer relationship with his father.
His pathway toward a full-time NASCAR career came with the expected perception that he drove in his dad’s shadow. During a recent interview on The Bussin’ With The Boys podcast, the 46-year-old quickly dispelled any notion that he competed under his father’s umbrella.
“No I didn’t,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I always read about that and always seen it written. I felt like other people saw me in his shadow. If I was, it was a hell of a place to be. No lie, I understand and I am the first to admit that being his son opened a ton of doors wide open and made a lot of challenges for an average guy trying to get into the sport much easier for me.
“I had a built-in fan base before I ever accomplished anything on the track. With my last name, people had expectations but they were also the support I hadn’t earned at that point. The benefits were way better than what the negative was that it came with.”
Earnhardt Jr. may not have felt that he was racing behind his dad’s legacy, but he holds the clear distinction of the benefits he gathered as Dale Sr.’s son. He’s also well aware that he took a much easier road to become a NASCAR driver due to his father.
It’s an aspect of his racing career that he never took for granted while holding great appreciation for the numerous opportunities he received.
NASCAR legacy forever etched in stone
Earnhardt Jr.‘s journey to becoming a full-time NASCAR driver may have transpired with ease, but he faced immense pressure as the son of an all-time great.
The two-time Daytona 500 winner didn’t feel the need to match or surpass his father’s success. However, he faced tremendous expectations to build on his family’s legacy by carving his lane. Earnhardt may not have reached anywhere near what his father accomplished, but he etched out his place in NASCAR history.
Beyond that, he helped elevate the sports’ popularity while further lifting the Earnhardt legacy. The journey over his 19-year career as a Cup Series driver included challenges stretches, but his longevity earned him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Ultimately, what he accomplished on the track far exceeded anything he imagined.