Geoff’s Journal: My memories of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
By Geoff Bodine
November 18, 2017
This Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racecar for the final time.
I don’t remember the first time I met Junior, but it was likely at a racetrack when he was young.
Tracks like Darlington and Rockingham used to have playgrounds for the drivers and their families. I know that’s where my boys met Junior.
My son and I built a car and had a friend build the engine. We had Barry go out and practice but trouble struck as his motor was smoking. The engine builder forgot to plug a hole, so of all things to use, we took bubblegum and plugged the hole up.
My son ended up beating all of the next-generation drivers in the race.
My sons would ride go-karts with Junior and Kelley Earnhardt.
Once his dad and I started banging fenders, the kids didn’t go to the lake anymore, my wife and I stopped going to dinner with Dale and Teresa.
He ended up donating the jukebox to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, which was really cool to see.
What I remember about racing against him is that he didn’t rub up against people like his dad did.
I have two brothers who raced, Todd and Brett. They saw what I went through with all the trouble and controversy over the years. They were both different than me.
Just like how Junior was different from his dad. He didn’t bang fenders with people or knock them out of the way. He drove hard but he didn’t spin you to win.
He raced clean and hard.
“Yes sir,” he would tell me when we would talk. I think his background in going to military school may have come into play there, as he would show a lot of respect.
“Well, I appreciate it, but you’re making me feel old,” I would tell him.
He’s always been polite and friendly.
He actually saw Barry up in Mooresville, North Carolina recently, and the two are planning on meeting up after the racing season ends.
And in turn, I have a lot of respect and admiration for his contributions to the sport and his desire to continue racing after his dad was killed at Daytona in 2001.
Junior is going to be missed by NASCAR Nation for many reasons.
Dante Ricci/The Racing Experts Benjamin Palmer/The Racing Experts Austin McFadden/The Racing Experts
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.