Earnhardt Jr. now works for NBC as a color commentator and podcast host. For now, though, Earnhardt hasn’t tried following the likes of Jim Brown or Thomas Jones as athletes that pursued long term acting careers.
One member of the Earnhardt family could have taken that route. That’s according to Earnhardt Jr, who thought his father, Dale Sr., intended to star in a movie with Tom Cruise.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Sr. are a legendary racing father-son duo
The duo of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Jr. is one of the best father-son pairings in sports history.
In 676 races over 27 years, Earnhardt recorded 76 victories and posted 428 top-10 finishes. Earnhardt won seven Cup Series titles, which remains tied with Jimmie Johnson and Richard Petty for the most in NASCAR history.
Dale Sr. passed his talents to his son. Earnhardt Jr. retired after the 2017 season with 26 victories and 260 top-10 finishes.
Earnhardt Sr. entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 during its inaugural class. When the Class of 2021 officially enters The Hall, Earnhardt Jr. will join Mike Stefanik and Red Farmer among the enshrinees.
Tom Cruise starred in the NASCAR film ‘Days of Thunder’
Sports movies, both those produced in Hollywood and the more-recent ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries, often focus on the likes of baseball, football, and hockey.
Before Talladega Nights, there was Days of Thunder. Tom Cruise played Cole Trickle, a young NASCAR driver trying to find his place in the sport’s highest level.
Nicole Kidman starred as Dr. Claire Lewicki, the female lead who developed a relationship with Trickle. According to the-numbers.com, Days of Thunder took in over $157 million in the worldwide box office.
Dale Jr. thought his father would star alongside Tom Cruise
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During his racing journey in Days of Thunder, Cole Trickle befriends another driver named Rowdy Burns.
Michael Rooker, who later appeared in The Walking Dead and the Guardians of the Galaxy films, played Burns. But if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is to be believed, those working on the movie had his father in mind for the role.
“It was Tom and one of the producers, and it was pretty early in putting the film together. And the rumor is they had actually asked Dad in that meeting to play Rowdy Burns. But I don’t know if that’s true. He never said that, but that was kind of the rumor that went around. I was only a little kid, so I was going to believe that.”
Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer co-produced the film. It is not known which of the two met with Earnhardt Sr.
Earnhardt Jr. and his sister, Kelley, later wound up meeting Cruise. SB Nation transcribed quotes that Earnhardt made about that experience in 2017.
“We are excited, we are going to meet Tom Cruise,” Earnhardt said. “Me and Kelley are there — we are giddy. And he comes in…he is five-foot shorter than I thought he’d be and he had pimples all over his face. I remember that.”