SouthBound: Dale Earnhardt Jr. On NASCAR, Retirement, And Becoming A Dad

Mar 21, 2018

In all my years of doing interviews, I’ve met very few people who are as open and honest about themselves as this week's SouthBound guest, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Jr. and I first met a little more than a year ago, when I was doing a profile of him for ESPN the Magazine. He had been NASCAR’s most popular driver for more than a decade, but he was also coming off a series of concussions that had forced him out of his race car for more than half a season. The delicate state of Dale Jr.’s brain was matched by his natural anxiety. He has always worried about what other people think about him, and if they see him for who he really is. That’s natural, I guess, when you’re the son of Dale Earnhardt – the Intimidator, NASCAR’s outlaw god, who died on the track at Daytona in 2001, with Dale Jr. one spot ahead of him on the track.

Dale Jr. retired from NASCAR at the end of last season, although he still plans to enter a race now and then. He quickly took a job as a broadcaster with NBC – he’ll be in the booth when NBC starts its slate of NASCAR races this summer. In the meantime, the network has sent him to the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl. And at home, he and his wife Amy have a baby girl on the way. It’s a time of transition for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and as always, he’s thoughtful about it. 

Show Notes:

  • Dale Jr. is really active (and entertaining) on Instagram and Twitter
  • His racing team, JR Motorsports, has a slate of podcasts featuring family members, crew members and Dale Jr. himself under the umbrella of Dirty Mo Radio. ("Dirty Mo" is his nickname for Mooresville, NC -- where most race teams have their shops, and where Dale Jr. lives)
  • A beautiful little on-track interview with ESPN's Marty Smith just after Dale Jr.'s final race last year
  • One of the great moments in NASCAR history: in the first race back at Daytona after his father died in 2001, Dale Jr. wins the Pepsi 400

Music From This Episode:

  • Jump For Joy - The Campbell Brothers
  • Re-Hash - Gorillaz
  • All The Optimism Of Early January - Lullatone

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Where to Listen:

New episodes of SouthBound will come out every other week on Wednesday. Subscribe:
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SouthBound is a production of WFAE. Our host is Tommy Tomlinson. Our producer is Nick de la Canal. Our web manager is Jennifer Lang. Our audience engagement producer is Joni Deutsch, and our theme music comes from Josh Turner.