Scott Fowler

Dale Jr. unplugged: On Panthers, exact date daughter should be born, life after NASCAR

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking forward to being a father – so much so, in fact, that he wants his wife, Amy, to have their baby daughter three days early.

Why exactly three days, you ask?

Because Amy Earnhardt is due to have the couple’s first child on May 2.

But as longtime Earnhardt fans know, the birthdate of Dale Earnhardt Sr. was April 29.

So that is what Dale Jr. is hoping for – that his baby daughter and his late father share the same birthday.

“How cool would that be?” Dale Jr. told me Tuesday. “I would love that.”

We were talking about this an hour after Earnhardt had done a Q-and-A in front of 700 people at an event for the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce, which named Earnhardt its “Citizen of the Year.”

Gov. Roy Cooper had also shown up, presenting Earnhardt and his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor a citizen of the state can receive.

Earnhardt, 43, retired as a NASCAR driver in November but has a busy 2018 ahead. Not only will he become a father and continue running JR Motorsports along with his sister, but he has joined NBC as a broadcaster and is being put immediately to work at both the Super Bowl and the Olympics. He also will serve as the grand marshal for this year’s Daytona 500.

Here are eight other things we learned Tuesday about Earnhardt during the event:

1. Dale Jr. remains interested in owning a sliver of the Panthers.

Earnhardt believes this would be most likely if Marcus Smith, who runs Speedway Motorsports, the parent of Charlotte Motor Speedway and other tracks, becomes involved in an ownership group. He has called Smith and offered to help if needed.

“I said, ‘If you get down to it and want to bring me on board, bring me on board, buddy,’” Earnhardt said, adding that he would do so because having an NFL team is a “badge of honor” for Charlotte.

But his involvement right now is only theoretical, and at one point he called it a “real longshot.”

“I would love to go and do that with Marcus and his guys,” Earnhardt said. “It would be really humbling to be even a small part of it.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., left, hugs his wife Amy after finishing his final NASCAR race at Homestead, Fla., in November. Amy is due to have the couple’s first child in early May. Darryl Graham AP

2. Earnhardt doesn’t believe NASCAR head honcho Brian France is involved in trying to buy the team.

“I don’t know that there’s any truth to that rumor – from what I’ve heard,” he said.

3. The governor is kind of glad Dale Jr. wrecked.

Cooper joked during his remarks about Earnhardt running into a pine tree during the recent snowstorm. “I’m out there telling people to stay off the roads,” Cooper said. “What better gift than one of the greatest race car drivers on the planet has an accident, and I can go, ‘See!’”

4. Earnhardt had a whole lot of fun helping rescue two different stranded motorists during that snowstorm (one was a policeman).

“If I had had my way, I would have rode around all day doing that,” Earnhardt said. “That was a lot of fun.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. played the Good Samaritan -- twice -- during last week’s snowstorm in North Carolina. But he also hit a pine tree with his jeep while driving too fast, he said Tuesday. Terry Renna AP

5. Earnhardt will broadcast more than racing for NBC.

He will have some assignments during the Super Bowl for the network that will be shown during the pregame. He will also go to South Korea for a week, leaving the day after the Daytona 500, to help with NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics there. Earnhardt said he has “cherry-picked” some events to go to and NBC will send a camera crew with him everywhere he goes, figuring something good will happen.

6. Earnhardt just learned how to ski.

He said he did so in Aspen, Colo., while visiting Jimmie Johnson and that he now wants to try out skiing in South Korea while he’s there.

In 2001, Dale Earnhardt carried the Olympic torch in uptown Charlotte. Earnhardt will travel to South Korea in February to participate in NBC Sports' coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics. At the Olympics, he is scheduled to visit the speed skating venue and accept a recent social media invite to ride in a bobsled. Jeff Siner

7. Earnhardt owes a huge debt to his sister.

Kelley, Dale’s older sister, was unable to be there to receive her honor Tuesday because she was on an anniversary trip out of the country with her husband. But Dale Jr. – who now relies on Kelley to run almost all of his businesses – talked of her fondly.

“Kelley basically raised me with the help of numerous housekeepers,” Earnhardt said. “Dad was only there probably half the time. She was the person I looked to for lunch money, for direction on schoolwork. She was just always there.”

8. Earnhardt’s first job was motivated by a speeding ticket.

Earnhardt recalled when he was about 16 and had a disagreement with his father and sped off in a huff. He was quickly pulled over and given a ticket by a policeman, and that incident made his father tell him: “Well, you better get a job.” So Earnhardt did, pumping gas at a full-service station on Exit 36 off Interstate 77 in Mooresville.

Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler