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As NASCAR fans look toward the future championship with the drives on “Race For The Championship,” Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are looking back at the importance the sport has had on his family.
For those unfamiliar, Earnhardt Jr. comes from racing family royalty. His father was the legendary driver Dale Earnhardt who is considered by many to be the literal best athlete and racer the sport of NASCAR has ever seen. Speaking on Patrick’s “Pretty Intense” podcast, the duo got personal as he discussed writing an essay about what his dad meant to him prior to his untimely death in 2001.
At the time, he explained he was writing a regular column for a racing publication and one night felt inspired by his dad.
“I’m writing these blurbs just about what’s happening in the race industry. Nothing crazy. One night, for some reason, I sat down by myself and wrote this essay about dad and what he meant to me," he told the host. "It took me no time at all to write this and it just poured out with so much ease and I was extremely proud of it.”
Earnhardt Jr. said he planned to publish the essay, but knew he had to check with his dad out of respect first.
“He takes it, and he reads it, he stands up and he starts walking around reading it. And it’s only about a page and he stops at the end, and he takes a minute, and he says, ‘You know we never tell each other how we feel about each other but in reading this, I know exactly how you feel,'” he said.
“I was like, ‘Yeah! Man, that’s exactly how I feel about you. I didn’t know he didn’t know that,” Earnhardt Jr. continued. “That I thought you were this great amazing thing.”
Although he was touched and extremely grateful, Earnhardt Sr. cautioned his son against publishing the essay, arguing that it’d be much better served in a future book or something like that.
Regardless, hearing his father express gratitude that his son not only wrote these kind words about him but shared it with him is one of the highlights of the NASCAR driver’s life. Especially given that his dad passed away mere months after this took place.
“If I never got to share that with him, man that would be tough,” he concluded. “If I was to never cross paths with him again and he left this world without me being able to share that with him, It’d be so hard. I’d be in such a harder place and spending these last 20 years without him it would have been so difficult.”
After hearing the story, Patrick couldn't help but admit she was "choking up" at the mere thought of the father and son duo sharing that moment together.
Can't get enough NASCAR action? Tune into "Race for the Championship," which tracks the lives of the sports' most compelling stars on and off the track, premiering on USA Network Thursday, Sept. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. And you can catch up on all things NASCAR on Peacock.
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