Dale Earnhardt Jr. strung together a NASCAR racing career that featured many memorable moments. Along the way, Earnhardt Jr. made some critical decisions that heavily impacted his path in the sport. There remains one choice he still can’t entirely move past.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR career
Dale Earnhardt Jr. spent two decades as a NASCAR driver that featured varying levels of success.
Earnhardt Jr. experienced some career-altering moments along the way but found a fair amount of triumph on the track. He earned a pair of Xfinity Series championships before transitioning over to a full-time Cup Series driver.
During his 19-year run, he won 26 Cup Series races, a pair of Daytona 500s, and finished inside the top 10 in the points standings seven times. Earnhardt Jr.’s lengthy career helped him earn an induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021.
However, there is one decision in his racing career that he still regrets.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. still can’t stomach his biggest regret as a NASCAR driver
Through the course of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR career, he made several pivotal decisions.
There are a few that still bother him to this day that could have altered his career. Earnhardt Jr. stated in November 2017 that his biggest regret as a driver lies with moving on from working with his uncle Tony Eury Sr. as his crew chief. (H/T Sporting News)
“I regret that,” Earnhardt Jr. said of deposing his uncle. “That’s probably my biggest [regret] in motorsports as a driver, was that decision because it did nothing and it made our relationship a challenge to repair. Like I say, we’d won a lot of races together, and he had been a big reason why I even got in the XFINITY car to begin with. He was my biggest supporter, and we had won so many races together.
“I don’t know what…I got confused there a while thinking that I knew better than anyone else what was best for me.”
Earnhardt Jr. experienced some notable success with Eury Sr. early in his career. In their final season together in 2004, they won six races, including his first Daytona 500 victory.
In that season alone, Earnhardt Jr. had 21 top 10 finishes, with 16 top-five finishes. The momentum was there on the track to take the next step forward, but there was a notable decline after that point.
In his final three years at Dale Earnhardt Inc., he grabbed only two Cup Series wins and finished outside the top 10 in the points standings twice. It will always be one of those “What could have been” moments for him in his racing career.
A career path that will always remains unknown
Since Dale Earnhardt Jr. stepped into retirement, he has pinpointed on numerous occasions that the 2004 decision still lingering in his mind.
Earnhardt Jr.’s trajectory after that could have panned out much differently due to the sustainable success he had with Tony Eury Sr. In their five full seasons (1999-2004) together, they had 15 Cup Series victories, 78 top-ten finishes, 52 top-five finishes, six pole positions, and landed in the top five of the points standings twice.
The 46-year-old has routinely spoken highly of his time with Hendrick Motorsports. However, in his 10-year stint, he finished inside the top 10 in the points standings three times and nine Cup Series wins.
Various other factors impacted his career, such as his departure from Dale Earnhardt Inc. and his struggles with concussions that eventually pushed him into retirement. It’s a scenario that could have seen him put together a vastly different NASCAR career.
Racing statistics courtesy of Racing-Reference.