Dale Earnhardt firmly established himself as one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history. Earnhardt’s tragic death after the 2001 Daytona 500 crash completely shook the sport to its core. Years later, his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. revealed his father had privately laid out his retirement plans before his tragic passing.
Dale Earnhardt’s tremendous NASCAR career
Before Dale Earnhardt‘s passing, he strung together an incredible NASCAR career that spanned nearly three decades.
Earnhardt tied the all-time mark with seven Cup Series championships along with 76 Cup Series wins and 428 top-ten finishes over 27 years. His dominance behind the wheel garnered him the nickname “The Intimidator” due to his aggressive racing style that also elevated him to sports’ most popular driver.
Earnhardt’s career and life came to a sudden halt, but before that, he privately discussed his NASCAR retirement plans.
Dale Earnhardt privately plotted his retirement plans before his fatal Daytona 500 crash
Before Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s devastating Daytona 500 crash, he experienced tremendous success on the NASCAR track.
However, Earnhardt Sr. may have had his eyes fixated on a particular pathway leading toward his eventual retirement. During an interview on The Dan Patrick Show in February 2017, Dale Earnhardt Jr. revealed that his father might have had a retirement plan laid out before his tragic death.
“I think there are a few people that he may have shared that with, particularly in his inner circles as his businesses go, as to what he was going to do driving wise over the next couple of years,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I think he had a plan in his mind to scale it back. It wasn’t more than a year or two of racing before he was going to retire.”
Dale Jr. may not have heard those plans directly from his father, but the eldest Earnhardt was nearing driving three decades in the sport. An opportunity to grab a record eight Cup Series championship would have kept him driving as he was coming off a second-place finish in 2000.
Earnhardt Sr. accomplished it all behind the wheel and would have likely scaled down his driving to a part-time schedule. Meanwhile, his focus would have been more on running Dale Earnhardt Inc. to further progress his son’s driving career.
There was so much ahead he could have achieved off the track as he winded down his illustrious NASCAR career.
NASCAR legacy set in stone, but much laid ahead
Dale Earnhardt constructed a NASCAR career that earned him recognition as one of the sport’s greatest drivers.
Earnhardt could have added so much more to his legacy behind the wheel had he not tragically passed away. Beyond those additional individual achievements, he had an opportunity to help shape Dale Jr.’s career tremendously.
His son entered the sport to garner a stronger relationship with him, which was beginning to blossom before his sudden passing. Earnhardt Sr. could have not only remained a significant part of the NASCAR scene but also played a more substantial role in his family’s daily lives.
Through various interviews over the years, Dale Jr. has provided a gateway into his life by discussing his childhood. Growing up, he and his sister Kelly so desperately yearned for a closer relationship with their father as his death took that opportunity away from them.
Put merely, Earnhardt Sr. had so much to gain off the track where he could have created endless irreplaceable memories.