Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the newest members of NASCAR's 75 Greatest Drivers list, has had plenty of interesting things happen to him throughout his illustrious career. It's enough to fill a book — and he's actually written two himself. So, it should go without saying that he probably doesn't remember every single occurrence or chance encounter — such as the time he first met Martin Truex Jr.'s younger brother, Ryan.
Before he told The Athletic's Jeff Gluck about that first meeting nearly 19 years ago, Ryan Truex — who currently competes part time in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing — talked about a person he'd be starstruck by if he met them.
"It would have to be somebody who is really low-key, like Keanu Reeves," Truex said. "Someone who doesn't want to be famous. I'd just get along better with them than somebody who has an entourage and is hard to talk to. So it has to be somebody down to earth where you'd be like, 'That was really cool I got to meet someone like that.'"
That reminded Truex of the first time he met Dale Earnhardt Jr., all the way back in 2004, the year Junior won his first Daytona 500.
"I met him in Martin's motorhome," Truex recalled. "Dale walked in, didn't say a word to me and just like shoulder-checked me. I was 12. He didn't say anything and just laughed and walked by to go use the bathroom or something. I was like, 'That's how I just met Dale Jr., the most popular driver in NASCAR.' And in 2004, he was on top of the world, right? I guess he just saw me as Martin's punk little brother and was just messing with me."
Apparently, Truex told Dale Jr. that story a few months back. Dale Jr. couldn't believe it.
"But I told Dale that story a couple months ago, and he's like, 'You're lying. That did not happen,'" Truex continued. "I'm like, 'Dale, I clearly remember it because it was the first time I met you. That's how it went.' So I guess that's a starstruck moment — literally struck by a star."
Now, Dale Jr. is a star who can include a spot on NASCAR's 75 Greatest Drivers among his many accolades. It's an honor that is well-deserved, as he joins not only his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., on the list but also his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt. Having three Earnhardts on the list is quite a feat for one of NASCAR's greatest families.
Dale Jr.'s racing skills alone aren't what got him to this moment, as he has also shown his knack for eyeing talent and giving a number of drivers the chance to succeed at NASCAR's highest levels. That list includes Ryan's older brother, Martin, along with fellow Cup drivers Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson and William Byron, just to name a few.
All those years ago, Ryan Truex really saw Dale Jr. for who he was: the ultimate NASCAR personality. I guess Dale Jr. is kind of like Keanu Reeves, too: They both can rock a beard. Does Dale know kung fu, though?
MORE: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Hall of Fame Case Includes His Busch Series Championship Trophy and These Other Iconic Items
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