Dale Earnhardt Jr. remembers his father on his 65th birthday

There are several pictures of the late Dale Earnhardt strategically placed around the media center at Talladega Motor Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. remembers his father on his 65th birthday
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet takes a selfie in front of a statue of his father
Dale Earnhardt
Richard Petty congratulates Dale Earnhard on his seventh championship
Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earmhardt celebrate his victory
A Dale Earnhardt fan
A fan remembers Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt
A Dale Earnhardt flag shines in the sun before the start of the practice session

From the mid-80s on, this has been an Earnhardt track. 

There’s a picture in the hall from 1983 of Senior with Bud Moore celebrating Earnhardt's first win on the 2.66-mile track in a Ford. His move to Chevrolet came one year later. Earnhardt drove the yellow-and-blue Wrangler Jeans car for Richard Childress until 1988, when Earnhardt transitioned to the hallmark black No. 3 Goodwrench Chevy. He and Childress won nine Talladega races together. 

Everybody still acknowledges who he was and what he meant. That’s all I care about, that we never forget just the impact that he had cause

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

After his 10th-career victory at Talladega — the 76th and final win of his career — Earnhardt was still beaming days later at a Nabisco press conference at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Unlike fellow competitor Mark Martin, the driver of the No. 3 would have never wondered publicly whether each win would be his last. 

On the other side of the Talladega media center is another photo of Earnhardt from later in his career, with clear goggles and an open-face helmet with Goodwrench printed across the top. Forget putting a full-face helmet on the Intimidator. He didn’t want it to affect the feel of the air — particularly at restrictor-plate tracks such as Talladega and Daytona. 

Imagining Dale Sr. at 65

It’s unlikely that Dale Earnhardt, who was just two month shy of 50 when he passed away in a last lap crash in the Daytona 500, would be much different, had he lived to be 65, the birthday he would have celebrated on Friday. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has continued the family tradition with six Talladega victories of his own, acknowledged he, too, wonders what his father would have been like in his golden years.

“It’s crazy to think about what he would have been like at 65-years-old,”  said Earnhardt, the defending winner of the Geico 500. “You kind of have an idea that he wouldn’t have changed a whole lot had he lived a little bit longer. But at 65, and what would he have been like at 80? All those things would have been hard to imagine.

“One of the best things about it — and I’ve said it before — it’s great that people still talk about him. That the sport, his fans, the media, that everybody still acknowledges who he was and what he meant.

“That’s all I care about, that we never forget just the impact that he had cause I felt like he had so much influence — definitely in the top five, top three people that influenced the sport as a whole as much as Bill (France) Sr. and guys like that. I put him right up there with people that really changed the sport.

“It’s so awesome to see him get that appreciation and recognition after all these years. Hopefully, that’s something that never changes. On his birthday, and days like this, I’m reminded of that appreciation that everyone has for him.”

shares
comments
Logano leads final Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

Previous article

Logano leads final Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

Next article

Chase Elliott puts No. 24 on pole at Talladega

Chase Elliott puts No. 24 on pole at Talladega
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Dale Earnhardt
Author Lee Spencer
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020