Dale Earnhardt Jr. names his biggest regret ahead of final race
As Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s final race is quickly approaching, the veteran driver revealed one of his biggest regrets as he reflected on his 19-year racing career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Earnhardt joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, but prior to that he raced for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. with his uncle Tony [Eury] Sr. as his crew chief. They won six races together in 2004 and at the end of the season, Earnhardt decided he did not want to work with his uncle anymore.
“I regret that,” Earnhardt Jr. said of deposing his uncle. “That’s probably my biggest [regret] in motorsports as a driver, was that decision because it did nothing and it made our relationship a challenge to repair. Like I say, we’d won a lot of races together and he had been a big reason why I even got in the XFINITY car to begin with. He was my biggest supporter and we had won so many races together.
“I don’t know what .... I got confused there a while thinking that I knew better than anyone else what was best for me.”
The following year, Earnhardt Jr. had only one race win and went from fifth to 19th in points with Pete Rondeau as his new crew chief. Earnhardt Jr. shuffled crew chiefs for the next year with Rondeau getting fired after 11 races and then Steve Hmiel filled in for the next 15. Tony Eury, Jr., Earnhardt's cousin filled the role until his 2009 season.
Earnhardt Jr.'s move to Hendrick was a personal revelation that he considers a "big break," but he said he still wonders about the what-ifs as to what would have happened to Dale Earnhardt Inc. had his father not passed away in 2001.
“I would only be guessing on the outcome of such things, but yeah, you always wonder what Dad would be doing if he were still around, what he would have done with DEI, where it would be, what we all would be doing,” Earnhardt Jr. told reporters Friday. “Would it look completely different than it looks today? I don’t have any clear idea what it would look like, but it certainly wouldn’t be what we have today. And everything, I think, would be completely different.
“The sport would be a little different with his influence throughout the years and I think he certainly would have had a good impact on the sport. But considering how things worked out, coming to work with Rick was a huge break for me and really a great opportunity. But I certainly think about the what-ifs, but I don’t know if I had stayed at DEI, if it would have made much of a difference for the end result for that place. It was a very challenging time for the company and it was a difficult decision to make, but I think it was the right one.”