When Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled off one of the most emotional victories in motorsports history at the 2004 running of the Daytona 500, his father, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr., obviously wasn’t in the race as he’d tragically passed away following a wreck at the same track three years earlier.
While obviously heartbreaking that Earnhardt Sr. couldn’t be on the track (or just in attendance at all) when his son won the biggest race of his life, Junior eerily saw himself win the Daytona 500 in a dream in which Dale Sr. wasn’t around.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. tragically passed away in 2001
The 2001 Daytona 500 will always be remembered as one of the most tragic days in NASCAR history as that was the day Dale Earnhardt Sr. passed away following a horrific wreck on the final lap of the race.
Earnhardt Sr. was one of numerous drivers chasing Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. down the stretch of “The Great American Race” and he, Sterling Marlin, and Ken Schrader were running three-wide heading into the fourth and final turn when Earnhardt Sr. and Marlin made contact with one another, which sent Earnhardt’s famous No. 3 Chevy up the track and into the wall, essentially killing him instantly.
It took NASCAR about three hours to make an official announcement but Schrader, who was the first person to look inside Earnhardt Sr.’s car as he’d been knocked out of the race as well, said he knew “The Intimidator” had passed but just couldn’t say it out loud.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first Daytona 500 three years later
Exactly six years to the day after Dale Earnhardt Sr. won his first and only Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined his father on “The Great American Race” winners list by holding off Tony Stewart to take the checkered flag. Stewart had actually led the 2004 Daytona 500 for 98 laps before Earnhardt Jr., who led for 56 total laps that day, passed him on lap 181 and never relinquished the lead.
It took Dale Earnhardt Sr. 20 tries to win his first Daytona 500, a feat Junior accomplished in his fifth attempt. Earnhardt Jr. went on to win NASCAR’s season-opening race for a second time in 2014.
So let’s get to that eerie dream.
Junior once recalled a dream in which he won the Daytona 500 without his father in the race
Back in 2018, Dale Earnhardt Jr. recounted a dream he once had before his father passed away, a dream in which he won the Daytona 500 without his father in the race. He’d actually told the media about this dream ahead of the first time he competed in “The Great American Race” in 2000 but nobody really thought anything of it at the time. But after Dale Earnhardt Sr. passed away and Junior won the Daytona 500 a few years later, it’s as if he predicted he’d win NASCAR’s biggest race without his father there.
Here’s how Earnhardt Jr. explained the dream on his podcast for Dirty Mo Media.
“I had a dream that I won this race [the Daytona 500]. And they [the media] were like ‘Where was your dad?’ I was like — he wasn’t in the race and I didn’t even think about that until you asked me that question — he wasn’t even in the field. Dale Jarrett run second to me and I never saw Dad in the race.
“And they were like ‘Oh, okay, whatever.’ And then Dad passes away and I won the Daytona 500 a couple years later and he wasn’t in the race. I mean — I foreshadowed my win.”Dale Earnhardt Jr.