“Anyone else would have been fired.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr spent 19 years in the NASCAR Cup Series. He collected 26 wins along the way but there were a few dry spells along the way.
In 2008, Earnhardt Jr made a bold decision to make the move from the team his father built (for him). He asked for painted side-skirts and signed with Hendrick Motorsports, arguably the hottest team in the sport.
From a business and professional standpoint, the move was legendary. DEI went under with Teresa Earnhardt behind the desk in 2009, only a year after Earnhardt left.
Meanwhile, the son of Dale Earnhardt won a race in his debut season with the No. 88. Then, nothing. 2009, 2010 and 2011 the driver went winless…
Dale Earnhardt Jr talks the rough patches in performance
“I had stretches of failure,” Dale Earnhardt Jr told Dan Patrick. “Just, where I was a miserable person, every day of the week.”
“I was showing up to work. Felt like I should be there, like I belong there. But, there were days where you looked around and didn’t have that same confidence as they guy next to you.”
“I driver introductions, you can see guys that are ready to get after it. Then, you could see guys that are not up on the chip.”
“You didn’t want anybody to hear it. You didn’t want your crew chief or anybody to know that you weren’t logged in. With most sports, racing is a team effort. Your personal issues, or anything you got going on, that wasn’t the jackman’s problem. He showed up, he’s there.”
From the beginning of his career, Dale Earnhardt Jr jumped into the sport with a fan base. It was an advantage on many fronts but also huge pressure to perform.
“I had a hard time feeling like a victim there because that fan base was absolutely the reason I was able to keep my job in certain situations when probably the next guy would have got fired,” Dale Jr added.
“There was a stretch where things were going pretty bad with my job for Rick Hendrick. Anyone else would have got let go. But, the support I had from the fan base is the reason why I wasn’t let go.”
“Being the most popular driver, that saved my butt, a few times in my career. And, I was able to turn it around and get back to victory lane.”
“Knowing it was this blessing, I felt guilty to ever look at that pressure as a bad thing or something that I didn’t want to have. It was literally keeping me in the seat.”
Dale Jr thought about quitting
Dale Earnhradt Jr added, “I wouldn’t really feel it on race day. Every day, you get up and get in the car, you’re thinking, ‘This is the day it could turn around. If I get in this car, this might be the day it goes right’ “
“But, on Monday, after it didn’t go right. I’d walk into the office, talk to my sister and say, ‘I’m done with this. This is not fun. I’m not having any fun. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ “
“But, the machine was so big that it was going. I can’t stop it. Even if I wanted to stop it, I couldn’t get off that train. Too many moving parts.”
“And, it’s probably best that I didn’t have that choice. Because, I probably would have made the wrong decision in that moment. I’m glad I stuck it out because I did get back to winning some races.”
Earnhardt returned to victory lane in 2012. He then picked up four wins in 2014 and three in 2015. He retired from full-time competition at the end of the 2017 season.
Junior will return to the wheel later this season. He’ll race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports at Richmond Raceway.