Lest you think Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s poor results this season mean he is just going through the motions as retirement approaches, let me quickly disabuse you of that notion.
Dale Jr. was ticked off when we talked and obviously had to gather himself to do an interview at all.
The reason? He had just had a practice session for NASCAR’s All-Star Race and it had gone horribly, in his estimation. (The all-star race itself would go no better the next night, with Earnhardt having what he would later call an “embarrassing” run and finishing 18th).
I asked Earnhardt about previous interviews – in which he had said he was a much more selfish person in his 20s and had become more giving – and happier – in his 40s with the help of his wife, Amy. The two were married on New Year’s Eve after living together for several years.
“I’d like to say I am,” Earnhardt said, “but I don’t know if I can say today is one of my happiest days. The car was awful when we started practicing. So I’m pretty fired up. I guess there’s good and bad about that. I’m still competitive…. And aside from today, I try not to let that kind of stuff get to me like it used to. I did let my job sort of dictate my attitude all the time.
“I was a bit hard to deal with sometimes, hard to be around. I think I’ve gotten better at that, but I really don’t know. I think that I certainly am happier about being married, being with Amy, how I’ve got everything going in my personal life. It’s a pleasant surprise how things have gone outside of my racing career as far as the businesses we’ve tried to create….. But I get mad at myself (on the track). I get p----- off. … I just want to run good. I think we can. And I think we should.”