Dale Earnhardt Jr. was just 26 when his father was killed in a tragic accident at the 2001 Daytona 500. Following that life-changing event, the younger Earnhardt became a household name on his own as he turned into one of the top drivers in NASCAR.
But he couldn’t have done it without his father, who taught Earnhardt Jr. some valuable lessons before his untimely death. Earnhardt Jr. discussed some of those lessons with Joe Rogan on the UFC announcer’s podcast.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. discusses Dale Earnhardt Sr.
On Rogan’s podcast, Earnhardt Jr. discussed life lessons that his father taught him. The elder Earnhardt never finished high school or got a GED, and he was worried that his children would do the same thing and not finish school.
Earnhardt Sr. was embarrassed by his lack of education, and he didn’t want his kids to experience the same thing. The younger Earnhardt discussed feeling that he let his father down when he was a kid. He told a story from when he was around 12 years old, when he couldn’t lift a bucket that his father wanted him to carry, but his friend was able to do it. Earnhardt Jr. says his father was “pissed off” at him because he knew his son didn’t try, so he gave Dale Jr. a look of disappointment.
Earnhardt Jr. felt that defined their relationship throughout his teenage years. When Earnhardt Jr. was out of money at the end of 1997, he felt his racing career was over. But his father let Dale Jr. drive in one of his cars in what is now called the Xfinity Series.
Dale Jr. thought it was a joke because he found out from someone other than his dad. Dale Jr. had success in that car, which helped their relationship grow closer again and Dale Sr. ended up building a team around his son in the Cup series.
The racing lessons Earnhardt Jr. learned from his father
Dale Jr. feels that the bucket story helped teach him to always try at anything that you do. Even if you don’t succeed, if you give it your best shot no one can get mad at you.
Another lesson occurred when they were at the track at Bristol, and Dale Jr. was practicing, but he wasn’t doing it right. His father got on the radio on one of the haulers and started talking to him, and told him that he was going to tell him how to drive the track.
Dale Sr. spent about five minutes helping his son learn that difficult-to-drive track. That was one of the few times the father and son ever talked about racing together.
Earnhardt Jr.’s on-track success
The bulk of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s success on the track came following his father’s 2001 death. Over his 19 years in the Cup Series, he ended up with 26 wins in 631 races.
He had 149 top-five finishes and ended up in the top 10 260 times. He also qualified for 15 poles. Over the course of his Cup career, Earnhardt Jr.’s average finish was 15.8th place, and his car was still running at the finish of 564 of his races.
That means he had a DNF — did not finish — next to his name in relatively few races considering how many he was in. Earnhardt Jr. added another 24 wins in 141 races in the current Xfinity Series.
Among Earnhardt Jr.’s other notable accomplishments are two Daytona 500 victories, 15 straight Monster Energy Cup Series Most Popular Driver awards, and the 2017 Bill France Award of Excellence. And he did it while trying to expand upon his family’s racing legacy.