Dale Earnhardt Jr Recalls Racing at Daytona for the First Time After Dale Sr’s Emotional Death

Published 08/27/2021, 5:45 PM EDT
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – AUGUST 30: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #8 Hellmann’s Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway on August 30, 2019 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


Back in July 2001, the NASCAR Cup Series returned to the Daytona Speedway for a second time that year. Admittedly, it was a bittersweet occasion, as it was the first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr’s fatal accident in February. For his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr, it was all the more difficult.

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Speaking about that day, he said, “I remember thinking to myself, ‘It’s going to be weird going into Turn 3 and 4’. After a couple of times, it was over. I think I was okay. There is no point in any race where you go, ‘Oh man! I got this. I’m going to win this race’. I always think, about what’s going to happen to keep me from winning this race.”

At those particular corners, all that anybody could remember was Dale Sr crashing heavily into the wall. To his credit, Dale Jr did not shy away from that fact and simply accepted that it will be part of him forever. All in all, it was a hugely emotional weekend for the entire NASCAR paddock and Dale Earnhardt Jr in particular.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr got poetic justice

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The #8 driver started the race from 13th on the grid, but was tipped as the favorite. Very soon, he showed why he was the favorite, as he steadily carved his way up the order. As soon as he hit the front, every one of the 180,000 fans were on their feet and cheering wildly.

RICHMOND, VA – SEPTEMBER 21: Dale Earnhardt Jr, driver of the #88 Hellmann’s Camaro Chevrolet, is introduced prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway on September 21, 2018 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Sure enough, there was a wreck, but he managed to dodge everything and keep going. The bad news was that the subsequent caution came out during a pit stop phase and he re-emerged in 7th place. To make matters worse, only a handful of laps were remaining. Nevertheless, he had faith in his strategy and he just needed to ensure that he had a clean run.

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When the green flag waved, Dale Earnhardt Jr really got the hammer down and charged. All it took was some really good moves at the right time, and people could have sworn that they were watching Dale Sr in that car. In the end, there was something. poetic when Dale Jr stormed to victory.

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Dhruv George

11975 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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