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PHOENIX, AZ ? November 6, 1999: Although he finished second to Jeff Gordon in the Outback Steakhouse 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (L) and his dad Dale Earnhardt (R) had plenty of reason to celebrate, as the younger Earnhardt clinched the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series championship even though there was still one race to run the following week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

The NASCAR community is well aware of the strained relationship between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt. She did not want to give Dale Jr. and his sister Kelly a major share in their father’s company, Dale Earnhardt, Inc., which the latter had built to leave for his children. In 2006, she hired Max Siegel as the President of Global Operations for DEI, and later, Chip Ginn Racing acquired them and rebranded themselves as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. But their relationship reached its tipping point well before this happened.

In December 2003, Junior started seeing signs of trouble in DEI. In an episode of Dale Jr. Download, where he hosted Ty Norris, they recalled what happened. Dale Jr hadn’t been paid in three months and approached Norris about it, who redirected him to Teresa, asking Junior to keep it professional. But that didn’t happen. Norris recalled Dale Jr. shouting at Teresa,  “Y’all haven’t paid me! You’ve breached my contract!” He added, “It became bitter. You said what you wanted to say and didn’t want to stick around longer.” Junior left DEI in 2008, but things got worse for the team.

In 2014, it was reported that Ganassi had dropped the Earnhardt name from the team’s moniker and went back to their former name, Chip Ganassi Racing, with Felix Sabates. Another shocker was that DEI would no longer be associated with a race team in any of the NASCAR national ranks. However, that’s not the only thing she refused to give to her stepson.

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In a recent episode of Dale Jr. Download, the former Xfinity Series champion revealed how Teresa’s decision to keep one of his father’s most loved possessions forced him to leave before giving fans an interesting insight into his father’s pastime hobbies! The story goes that in the woods behind the DEI shop, Dale Earnhardt had a lot of land and used to live in a log cabin he had built. However, there were about 100 acres of land lying empty. There were plans to build a house in that area, but The Intimidator sadly passed away before any of that could come to fruition.

via Imago

Junior here saw an opportunity to build a property for himself and live close to where his dad used to stay with his family. Unfortunately, this was a dream that did not turn into reality. On the podcast, Dale Jr. further revealed, I asked Teresa, ‘I want to buy land. Will you sell me this 100 acres that’s sitting down on the side of the road?’ She would not sell that to me. She wanted to keep it, which is fine. And so I ended up buying on the other side of town.” But it turns out that’s not all.

In another episode of Dale Jr. Download, the veteran talked about The Intimidator’s Deerhead Shop. Inside, Earnhardt had a loft that contained things personal and important to him – everything from his race suits to Junior and Kelley’s military school uniforms. However, Dale Jr. hasn’t had a glimpse inside for more than two decades. Why? “Apparently, the day Dad died, they locked the doors, and nobody has been in there since. I believe that no one has probably set foot in there, and Teresa’s made absolutely sure that that’s the case.” 

What’s clear is that Dale Earnhardt was a lot more than just a racer. His passion for being a builder is perhaps not something you’d associate with The Intimidator. But as per his son, that’s exactly what he did to pass the time and blow off some steam.

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The unorthodox way The Intimidator used to relax

After a tiring race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had revealed earlier in the podcast that he would drink a few beers and smoke cigarettes just to sit back and relax. On the contrary, his father used to substitute the cigarettes with something else. The iconic driver used to build or at least shape the land he owned for future building projects, which sounds like the opposite of relaxing. However, they had their own way of blowing off the steam.

Dale Jr. further revealed, “What dad did was that he drank beer with his buddies, and then he rode a bulldozer. He would spend Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday moving dirt and shaping his land. He had property, and he loved to build a dam or clear a field. There was always a job and a thing to do that had to… he wasn’t like this property wasn’t making him money, but it was a project of his.

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“So he was always clearing land, pushing trees over, and [saying], ‘We’re gonna make this look a certain way, and we’re gonna build a house over here, so I’m gonna clean this stuff,’” said Junior.

Yet again, Dale Earnhardt Jr. revealed an intriguing story about his legendary father. It seems like the stories about the 7-time Cup Series champion just do not seem to ever run out. But that’s what draws fans to him even today, even decades after his passing. After all, behind the rough and tough guy on the track, he was just like all of us. Wouldn’t you agree?

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Written by:

Nilavro Ghosh

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Nilavro Ghosh is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports, where he is known for his creative yet easy-to-read writing style. Before taking up his role as a sports journalist at ES, Nilavro has written for some of the top publishing houses, like The Telegraph. While most journalists stop at covering live events and taking the news to the readers, Nilavro goes the extra mile to give fans a platform for them to express their thoughts through his 'race reaction' pieces.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath