3 Years After Kobe Bryant Tragedy, Lakers Legend’s Uncanny Driving Force Rescues Dale Earnhardt Jr

Published 09/20/2023, 2:06 PM EDT

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In an electrifying twist, Dale Earnhardt Jr. survived a literal in-car fire to shine in his thrilling return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Bristol Motor Speedway. Once a two-time Daytona champ, the legend roared back to life, steering the wheel and proving naysayers wrong. And while most would call it a comeback, Junior simply calls it “coming home.” But this return came with its fair share of struggles. But Junior is not one to back down!

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In a recent episode of the ‘Dale Jr Download’ podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. candidly shared his battle with pre-race anxiety and the unexpected inspiration he found in the words of the late Kobe Bryant, three years after the basketball legend’s tragic death. Co-hosting the podcast with Mike Davis, Dale delved into the origins of his racing-related nervousness and how Kobe’s perspective helped him overcome it, particularly during a race at Bristol.

Kobe Bryant’s Legacy Fueling Dale Jr.’s Comeback Journey

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In the podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. recounted a pivotal moment when he stumbled upon a quote by Kobe Bryant. This quote discusses the two primary types of athletes: those driven by the fear of failure and those motivated by the pursuit of success. Reflecting on this distinction, Dale recognized that these two mindsets often define athletes’ approaches to their respective sports.

“Kobe said ‘I’m not either one of those … he said I’m not driven by the fear of failure and I’m not driven by the the the the championship or the opportunity to become the greatest of all time’. He said ‘I’m there to learn every moment. I’m just there to learn I’m driven by trying to learn in that moment’.” Earnhardt recalled.

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The JR Motorsports owner stated, “And I thought man that’s exactly where I was going wrong. You know if you put yourself in a competitive situation right or even in any situation professionally right where you’re trying to succeed and I wonder if that was I wonder if that would work in that moment if you could figure out a way to get yourself there instead of being me in that moment I’m worried about failure.”

Dale found a powerful revelation in the Lakers legend’s words. He realized that throughout his racing career, he had often approached his races with the anxiety of fearing failure. The constant worry of letting himself and others down had been the driving force behind his performances. Kobe’s philosophy, however, urged him to shift his perspective. Instead of fixating on failure, Dale understood the value of entering each race with a mindset centered on learning and personal growth.

WATCH THIS STORY: Denny Hamlin Accuses Joe Gibbs Grandson of Invoking Dale Earnhardt’s Tragedy on Ryan Blaney No Place To Hide

How else did the late NBA legend inspire the ‘Pied Piper of Daytona’?

How a Quote Transformed Mindset Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Earnhardt Jr., now a Class of 2021 NASCAR Hall of Famer, showed he hadn’t lost his touch. Clocking an impressive 47 laps in the lead, he dominated much of the evening at Bristol. All thanks to Kobe Bryant’s wisdom!

“Kobe was like ‘I’m neither one of those I’m there to learn in this moment and I faced I went I didn’t I didn’t look at success or figuring failure I was just thinking what am I gonna learn right now what am I gonna learn in this moment’,” Dale stated.

He further added, “And so I was thinking man okay so you go out there to qualify and just instead of worrying about making the field or worrying about failing just wondering what you’re gonna learn in this qualifying lap sounds simple dont it.”

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In his moment of vulnerability and self-discovery, Dale Earnhardt Jr. found a unique source of inspiration in Kobe Bryant’s philosophy. Dale was determined to apply this newfound perspective and embrace the journey of learning in every racing moment rather than being consumed by the fear of failure.

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Written by:

Brahmi Dhaytadak

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Brahmi Dhaytadak is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. She combines her love for F1, Tennis, and NASCAR into electrifying prose that sets the hearts of her readers racing. Whether it was the finesse of Charles Leclerc's maneuvers around Monaco or the artistry of Roger Federer's racket, everything inspired Brahmi to venture into the field of sports journalism.
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Edited by:

Anuj Jacob

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