“Shut the Door and Cried”- Dale Earnhardt Jr Confesses Doubting Own Potential After Concussions Jeopardised His NASCAR Career

Published 11/12/2023, 9:25 AM EST

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Since its initiation, Dale Earnhardt Jr has had one of the most illustrious careers in NASCAR. Over the last 75 years, few drivers have had the following that Dale Jr enjoys. Winning 15 Most Popular Driver awards through his career behind the wheel, he enjoys the status of a legend even now, years after he hung up his racing suit. But things weren’t always very fruitful for him when he was setting fire to the sport’s tracks.

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Talking to former racer Kenny Wallace on his YouTube show, the icon opened up about how much a string of dry qualifying runs had hurt him in one of his final years as a race car driver. Notably, this was a time when he was still suffering from the consequences of the many concussions that he had in years past.

Dale Earnhardt opens up about his past qualifying troubles to Kenny Wallace

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Qualifying runs are often as important as the main race itself. It provides teams and their competitors with a trailer of sorts about how things are going to play out during the main event. The runs can turn out to be all the more intimidating for the same reason. With all eyes on you, crew chiefs, manufacturers, fellow drivers, and the team owners, one is bound to face a bit of nervousness. The slightest mistake can cause a racer to hurt his own ego. Dale Earnhardt Jr recently recalled one particularly testing time.

On Kenny Wallace’s YouTube show, Dale Jr joined him for a discussion. Talking about qualifiers and their importance, Junior opened up about his own troubles with them. Nostalgia hitting him after Kenny Wallace brought forth his heartbreak after a bad qualifying run in Sonoma years back, Junior spoke about his string of bad qualifiers at the time.

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Talking about one qualifying run at the Richmond Raceway that had hurt him pretty harshly, he said, “I can’t remember, this was like 2015, 16 or 17. It was one of those years last couple of years in my career where at Richmond and I feel like I’ve qualified 23rd for eight weeks in a row. I had this sort of writer’s block I just could not get past that (…)

“I qualified 22nd or 23rd and went back to the bus and uh walked into the bus and walked back into the bathroom and shut the door and cried.

Dale Jr went on to talk about how he had never gone to the extent of being so broke over some bad qualifiers. Unable to put a finger on what the reason for his bad performances behind the Hendrick Motorsports car was, he said, “I’m like, ‘You know you’re doing this all your life. You know in your heart, you believe you’re good at it. You want to believe you’re one of the best at it, and no matter what you’re doing or no matter how you try to approach it, you keep getting the same result.”

However, Junior’s troubles with qualifiers did not end with him quitting full-time racing in 2017.

Watch Story: Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Surprising Revelation

Dale Earnhardt Jr continues to be pressured by qualifying runs years after quitting

Continuing on his discussion with Kenny Wallace, Dale Jr expressed that he had never gone to the extent of physically crying over race results. Though the icon couldn’t figure out why those particular qualifying results mattered so much to him, it is clear that he still faces a lot of pressure when it comes to those runs. His issues with anxiety in this year’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol underline that.
A few weeks back on his podcast, ‘Dale Jr Download’, he had admitted to feeling nervousness and anxiety before he went to qualify first in the Bristol race. Talking about how he’d never felt that way before, he acknowledged to his long-term friend Mike Davis that he did not want to be feeling so. Bringing up the same incident to Kenny Wallace, Junior talked about how he had been forced to qualify immediately after his practice run.

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He said, “I’m like this is crazy and I ain’t got my head on straight. I don’t know what I’m about to do. I ain’t even had a chance to think about what I’m gonna do. I mean, I was so nervous the week leading up to the Xfinity races at Bristol and at Homestead, because at Bristol I think I had to go out third, maybe it was first (…)

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So, it’s intimidating, man, even after all these years.Maybe or maybe not, Dale Jr’s nervousness when it comes to qualifying is an after-effect of his more than a dozen concussions. But as he himself had admitted, he could have been a much better racer if not for them.

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Written by:

Gowtham Ramalingam

365Articles

One take at a time

Hello, there! Though my affinity for racing originally stemmed from the European circuits of Formula 1 as a teen, I unexpectedly found myself drawn to NASCAR's unparalleled excitement growing up. This sport took hold of me and never let go, leading me to a career as a NASCAR writer. Over the last few months, I’ve had the chance to share my insights and observations through a myriad of articles on EssentiallySports.
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Edited by:

Abhishek Ramesh

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