Dale Earnhardt Sr. was called The Intimidator for a reason. With his aggressive driving style, he never shied away from contact on any NASCAR track. Frequently he initiated it. Off the track, Earnhardt wasn’t afraid of confrontation either. And if he deemed such an interaction required a violent response, then so be it.
During the early 1990s at the height of his NASCAR success, he found himself in just that type of situation on his farm. When it was over, he suffered a broken hand after repeatedly punching the face of someone who had betrayed him.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. earned The Intimidator nickname on the track
In his NASCAR career, Dale Earnhardt Sr. was fearless. That explains why he not only never avoided trading paint with a competitor traveling at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour; he reveled in it. And the competition knew it.
There was nothing more intimidating for another driver to look in his rearview mirror and see the black No. 3 car right on his bumper. The driver knew he was at Earnhardt’s mercy.
Kurt Busch recalled a story early in his career after he had wrecked Dale Jr. in a previous race. Earnhardt Sr. made sure Busch knew he wasn’t happy about the previous incident.
“I kid you not, his car was so fast that he could have gone up and led every single lap,” Busch said on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. “He rode behind me for the next 100 laps, rearranging my rear bumper. Making sure that I knew that I messed up when I wrecked Dale Jr. the week before.”
Junior recalls time father broke his hand on employee’s face
Dale Earnhardt Sr. loved deer but not for hunting. He enjoyed watching the large bucks roam around on his hundreds of acres of property. He was protective of his deer, so when someone tried to poach one from his property, Earnhardt wasn’t happy and took actions into his own hands.
On an episode of the Dale Jr. Download podcast, the younger Earnhardt recalled that incident and described it as an inside job.
“A guy was working on a big tractor during the day on Dad’s property. He saw some deer,” Earnhardt opened. “He went to a bar later that afternoon, happy hour drinking with a buddy of his telling his buddy about the deer. 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 treeline 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 admits to violent incident
A short time after the incident, Dale Earnhardt showed up in New York City for the Winston Cup championship trophy presentation. With a black cast on his right hand, Earnhardt described the injury to anyone who asked, the result of a “farming accident.”
Years later, Earnhardt acknowledged the incident and how it sent him over the edge.
“Pushed into a corner or pushed into a situation, then yes, I could get violent,” Earnhardt told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “I have gotten violent in my time. When I found out who was poaching my deer — a guy I knew that worked on my farm, ran my bulldozer — well, I took care of that myself.”
Dale Earnhardt took care of business on and off the track. His legacy will always be remembered as one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. For one former employee, he’ll also be remembered for a strong straight right.