When Dale Earnhardt Jr. was barely 1 year old, his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. ran his first race in the Winston Cup Series. While Junior was growing up in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Senior was stringing together race win after race win. Little Dale was 6 when his dad won his first Cup championship, and by the time Dale Jr. was 20 years old, Dale Sr. had seven NASCAR Cup Series titles and had already solidified his legacy as NASCAR's GOAT.
Dale Jr. himself would be later destined for greatness, and today, both father and son are proud inductees of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. These days, Earnhardt is retired as a full-time NASCAR driver and has found his second calling as an NBC broadcaster and podcast host.
But, long before those things came to fruition -- the NASCAR career and the current stint in media -- Dale Jr. had already showed a knack for both when he was just a young kid. Talk about the ultimate throwbacks!
Young Dale Earnhardt Jr. Interviews His Dad in 1990
Decades before the "Dale Jr. Download" podcast, Dale Jr. already showed his interviewing skills when he chopped it up with his pops in Victory Lane after he won the 1990 Diehard 500 Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
The clip appeared in the 2007 documentary film "Dale," which features plenty of archival footage and interviews from throughout Dale Sr.'s career. I don't want to speculate too much...incoming speculation...but I'd be willing to bet that this is one of Junior's favorite moments from the movie.
The post-race moment was a brief but heartwarming exchange, with Junior's "Are you going to give me some money when you get home?" quip having everyone in hysterics. Even Senior couldn't help but chuckle.
I'm not crying, you're crying.
Despite the warm rapport between father and son shown in this clip, their relationship didn't really take off until Junior started racing with his dad when he was 17. As the Earnhardts continued to race together, their relationship only got stronger. In fact, during an episode of the "Joe Rogan Experience back" in 2018, Junior recalled when his relationship with his dad completely changed for the better.
As Junior tells it, despite him only winning four late model races out of 159 from 1994-1997, Senior decided to bet on his son. In 1998, Earnhardt let Junior helm the No. 3 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (Junior would later see success as a racing team owner for JR Motorsports). Junior would go on to win back-to-back championships in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (back when it was the Busch Series).
"So he is thinking 'Damn! This little s*** can drive a car!' And that's when our relationship completely changed. That's when [he] had his arm around me, we were doing s*** together, we had sponsor deals and promotions together. We were doing photo shoots together. I saw him all the time, and we talked about all kinds of [things]."
"We talked about life, girls, everything but racing. We didn't talk about racing much, which is fine. And it was awesome. So '98, '99, and then 2000 I went to Cup. He built a Cup team around me...And then he got killed in 2001 at the start of the season in the Daytona 500. So those three years -- '98, '99, '00 -- were as good as it could get."
Damn it, who is cutting onions in here!
Dale Jr.'s Interview With Steve Byrnes
Now, Dale Jr. didn't just play interviewer as a kid, but also found himself in the role of interviewee.
In 1990 (young Dale sure was making the rounds that year), longtime NASCAR reporter Steve Byrnes interviewed the teenage Earnhardt about everything from his dad to his own career prospects as a stock car racer. Given the way he conducted himself on camera at such a young age, it makes sense that this kid went on to be a 15-time Most Popular Driver award winner.
At one point, Dale was asked to offer up one thing that racing fans didn't know about his dad that they might like to.
"He's a lot more of a family man than they might think," Junior said. "He helps me through hard and times and problems or whatever, he's a pretty good guy when it comes down to it."
And, of course, the inevitable question: "Would you like to have a career in racing?"
"I want to be a race car driver someday," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's a great sport, I love it to death, it's all I've ever known...racing."
Sadly, Steve Byrnes passed away in 2015 at the age of 56 from head and neck cancer. Having gotten his start in auto racing in 1985, Byrnes later worked with NASCAR on Fox as a pit reporter and became the host of NASCAR Race Hub. Following Byrnes' death, Dale Jr. paid tribute to the first person to ever interview him.
"My hope is Steve was able to see how much he was loved & appreciated by so many. Rest easy friend."
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