Scott Fowler

Would Dale Earnhardt Sr. have been able to get a job driving a Cup car today?

Dale Earnhardt, left, and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., watch a race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 1, 2001. The elder Earnhardt would die in a crash in the Daytona 500 17 days later.
Dale Earnhardt, left, and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., watch a race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 1, 2001. The elder Earnhardt would die in a crash in the Daytona 500 17 days later. AP

Here was the question that Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he had never considered before, and that made him pause the longest in our interview.

I asked him if his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. – a ninth-grade dropout, rough around the edges, politically incorrect and incredibly talented – could have ever gotten a job driving a race car given the corporate, smooth-talking, sponsor-schmoozing demands of a Monster Energy Cup driver today.

“That’s a good damn question,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve never been asked that question before.”

He then paused 10 seconds, thinking about it awhile longer, and then said this:

“If Kyle Larson can do it the old-fashioned way, on pure talent – you know he don’t have a pocketbook – I think anybody can. I think Dad would certainly have had opportunities to have cleaned up his edge a little bit. Not so much his on-track persona – nobody wanted him to do anything different there. But these days he would have had more tools at his fingertips to help himself be a bit more marketable to sponsors.

“But anyway, there are people who want that kind of guy. He might not have had to change a thing. I have to believe, though, that a guy who just has a lot of talent can still make it out here.”

More from Scott Fowler’s one-on-one with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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