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Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Teresa Earnhardt have had a contentious relationship for years. During an episode of the Dale Jr. Download, the two-time Daytona 500 winner visited with former executive vice president of Dale Earnhardt Inc., Ty Norris, and discussed how the relationship began to sour, including one confrontation in which an angry Earnhardt yelled at Teresa after not being paid in months.   

Dale Earnhardt Jr. feared the worst for business after his father died

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, pose for a photo together at the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion's Celebration in 2004
Teresa Earnhardt with her stepson Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004 | Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt’s death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 affected millions of people, but no one more so than his son, Dale Jr. He lost not only his father but also someone he would later describe as his “cheat sheet” to life. 

During an episode of the Dale Jr. Download, Junior detailed how his father’s death, in addition to affecting him personally, changed the way he felt about Dale Earnhardt Inc. and the company’s ability to continue and fulfill his father’s vision.  

“In my mind, I lost all confidence in this becoming what Dad wanted it to be when he died,” Earnhardt admitted to Norris. “We could try. We had a hell of a ’04. It was awesome. Won six races. Cars were fast. Cars got power. We’re winning plate races and all the things. On paper, we had good success. But I just knew without him here to help us keep that vision heading that direction we just weren’t going to hit that target.”

Earnhardt said everyone wanted his father’s common-sense approach and willingness to communicate what he wanted. After he died and Teresa took the reins, communication was dramatically different.

“You had Teresa over the top of all of it making things difficult to understand,” Earnhardt said. “The information from her and the direction she wanted this to go, she wasn’t as open about that as Dad was. Dad was: ‘Here’s my vision, everybody. Everybody on the same page.’ Teresa wasn’t stand up in front and tell a story and tell us what’s about to happen. She was behind the curtain and quiet.” 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. goes ballistic and yells at Teresa about a breach of contract

While the company had found success and sustained it through 2004, Junior saw signs of trouble at the end of 2003. Norris spoke about one incident in December 2003 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip showed up at his office, and they weren’t happy. 

Both drivers hadn’t been paid since September. When Norris informed them that Teresa managed the account that paid them, Earnhardt demanded to speak with Teresa. After he tracked her down, she agreed to meet with them.

Before the meeting, Norris insisted that Earnhardt keep it professional and not attack her. Three hours later, when they finally met, Junior couldn’t contain himself and exploded.  

“Been waiting down here for three damn hours!” Norris recalled Earnhardt yelling at Teresa. “Y’all haven’t paid me! You’ve breached my contract!”

“I’m trying to mediate, but it was over,” Norris remembered. “It became bitter. You said what you wanted to say and you didn’t want to stick around longer. You had stuck around long enough and you left.”

Earnhardt remained with DEI through 2007 before he departed for Hendrick Motorsports.  

Pair still have strained relationship today


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Now, more than 15 years after that confrontation, the relationship between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Teresa Earnhardt remains unchanged. During the “Ask Jr.” segment of a recent podcast, Junior explained why.

He talked about a building on the DEI campus where his father’s office is still located. Inside, it includes some of his father’s prized personal possessions, including uniforms, clothes, and gun safes. Unfortunately, Earnhardt has been unable to access any of it in the last 20 years.

“Apparently, the day Dad died, they locked the doors, and nobody has been in there since. And I believe that probably is true,” Earnhardt said. “I believe that no one has probably set foot in there, and Teresa’s made absolute sure that that’s the case.” 

The strained relationship has lasted for two decades. It’s hard not to imagine if Dale Sr. was still around, things would be very different.

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