NASCAR: Why Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dislikes When Current Race Car Drivers are Compared to His Dad

by Keeli Parkey

During an appearance on the podcast “The Artist and The Athlete with Lindsay Czarniak,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about his famous father and the NASCAR legacy he left behind.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. passed away due to a crash on the final lap in the Daytona 500 in 2001. He was only 49 years old at the time of his death. Now, 20 years later, his son has had plenty of time to reflect on what his father did during his legendary career. And, Dale Jr. has developed some very serious opinions about how his father’s legacy and name are used.

Dale Jr. and Czarniak were joined by country music star Darius Rucker on the podcast, which was released on Tuesday (May 18).

“I think when dad died, my fear was that there would be a day where people would not remember his impact,” Dale Jr. said. “And, to me, he was a huge thing. In the moment of his life he was this big, huge thing to a lot of people.”

Dale Jr. Said His Father ‘Was Bigger Than’ He Had Imagined

Just how Dale Earnhardt Sr. impacted NASCAR, as well as other facets of life became very clear to Dale Jr. in 2001.

“When he died, I saw him everywhere on TV,” Dale Jr. said of his father. “People I never thought would be talking about my dad were talking about him. So, he was bigger than I even thought, right, I guess is what I’m trying to say.”

Even after experiencing that, Dale. Jr. remained concerned that his father’s legacy would fade into history.

“But, I was just always scared, like man, I hope they don’t ever forget the essence of him and like his personality and his impact,” he said. “What it felt like when he walked in a room. And, what it felt like when he was out on the track. He changed the mood.”

This feeling led Dale Jr. to feel a certain way about how his father was remembered.

“… So, I don’t want people to beat his records,” Dale Jr. said on the podcast. “I don’t like when anybody is compared to him. It gets under my skin when somebody says, ‘He’s the next Dale Earnhardt.’ … There’s never another Dale Earnhardt. I’m protective of it, you know.”

Despite Frustration With Comparisons to His Father, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Said He Is Pleased That His Father’s NASCAR Legacy Lives On

Even with his frustrations about current NASCAR drivers being compared to his father, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he is pleased that his father is still talked about and remembered.

“But, I have also been really happily surprised about how his legacy has lived on. And, how people still remember him,” Dale Jr. said.

Darius Rucker quickly agreed. “He’ll never be forgotten,” he said to Dale Jr.