Dale Earnhardt Sr. Had a Dark Side and Anger Issues That Included Kicking an Employee’s Knee After Learning About His Torn ACL

On the race track, Dale Earnhardt Sr. earned “The Intimidator” nickname. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion never backed away from contact, even while traveling at speeds of 200 mph. That aggressive style was just who Earnhardt was. And it wasn’t limited to racing.

In a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download, Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked with Ty Norris, who was considered a lieutenant for Dale Sr. and basically served as his right-hand man for years. During the episode, the two recall many great things about the legendary driver but also discuss some of the dark times and his anger issues, including one incident during which he got so angry that he kicked Norris in the knee right after he had learned about his torn ACL. 

Dale Earnhardt Sr. earned ‘The Intimidator’ nickname

There are countless stories online of Dale Earnhardt’s unflinching willingness to do whatever necessary to strike fear into his competition. Whether it was riding the bumper of the driver in front of him for miles or squeezing a car off the track, Earnhardt never hesitated. It was his style.

However, that combative style wasn’t limited to the track. In an episode of the Dale Jr. Download, Ty Norris, who worked as executive vice president for Dale Earnhardt Inc. for years, shared a shocking story with Dale Earnhardt Jr. that revealed a dark side about his father. 

Norris said it all started after someone got injured playing basketball on the goal at work. Earnhardt banned basketball. 

Earnhardt kicks employees knee after learning about his torn ACL

With Earnhardt’s disdain for his employees playing basketball known after that one incident, Norris knew things wouldn’t go well after he tore up his knee playing basketball at the YMCA, but he never could have imagined it would go as poorly as it did. 

“He gets home from the race that night, and he calls me, and he’s like, ‘What time you going to come to the shop tomorrow?'” Norris remembered. “I was like, ‘I’ll be there early, but I just want to let you know, I tore my knee up pretty bad.'”

When Earnhardt asked how and Norris told him playing basketball, the response was unsurprising.

“He said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ and he slams the phone down,” Norris recalled. “He was so pissed.”

The next day, Norris arrived at work. When Earnhardt came out of one building on the property under construction, he saw Norris, and the pair started walking toward each other, Norris doing so with a noticeable limp. 

“He could see which leg I was limping on, and he had to go to an appearance so he has like his Chase shirt on, jeans, and his boots. He gets there close and he puts his hand for me, and right when I go to shake his hand, he picks up his leg and he kicked me right in the knee as hard as he could,” Norris said. “Took me down. And he goes, ‘I told you to never play basketball! I’m not going to have my employees where they can’t be around!'” 

“It freakin’ hurt,” Norris said, recalling he was in tears on the ground. “He was influential in everybody’s lives, but there are a lot of days where I just was like, ‘Get this man out of this office. Get this man on the back of that farm. Get him on a bulldozer. Get him in a happy place because he is a miserable son-of-a-b****.’ I couldn’t stand it.”    

Broke his hand punching another employee in the face

Interestingly, Earnhardt’s violent interaction with Norris wasn’t the only time he took out his anger on an employee. Junior recalled in an earlier podcast episode a time when his father got upset after someone tried to shoot and poach one of the deer on his property. 

“A guy was working on a big tractor during the day on Dad’s property. He saw some deer. He went to a bar later that afternoon, happy hour drinking with a buddy of his telling his buddy about the deer,” Earnhardt recalled. “The more they drank, the braver they got. They decided they were going to come back to Dad’s property around dark, jump the fence, and shoot one of the deer.”

Earnhardt said his father and the farm manager were walking the property when they heard a gunshot. Moments later, they saw the deer running and drop to the ground. Earnhardt decided to lie in wait for the unsuspecting poacher. 

“They hid in the tree-line and waited for those guys to come up to the deer and when they got to the deer, Dad just ran after the one with the gun and he tackled the guy,” Junior recalled. “And he broke his hand on his face. The only reason why he stopped punching the guy was he recognized the guy’s voice once he started saying stop. Dad held him there until the cops got there.”

Dale Earnhardt was a hero to many on the race track. But like everyone else, he was also human and had his share of flaws. And it didn’t matter if you were a driver or an employee; if you got on his bad side for whatever reason, it could result in an ugly ending.

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