It’s one of the toughest questions to ask — and answer: What would your father have thought of your career?
That’s the question posed to Dale Earnhardt Jr. during his retirement announcement on Tuesday. Indeed, how would the late Dale Earnhardt, who died in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, have judged his young son’s racing career?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. got emotional answering that question, but believes his father would indeed have been proud of what he’s accomplished in his own racing career.
“I’ve always let other people tell me what dad would think in a certain situation,” Junior said. “I never would have assumed he was proud of me when he was alive. I certainly wouldn’t make that mistake after he passed. I just never felt like I was worthy of assuming that of him.
“I always was open to hearing from people who knew him real well and what they think he would think. I talked to some people in the past 24 hours that knew him pretty well and they’re pretty confident that he’d be very proud.
“There are a lot of things I’ve done over the last several years that he’d be pretty surprised. He’s probably somewhere already surprised. He wouldn’t tell me to my face but he’d probably tell Rick or anybody else that would listen that he was very proud of me, and then I’d have to go hear it from Rick.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick agreed with his driver, saying, “I knew your daddy pretty well. I knew him real well. He would be proud of the man that you are and what you’ve done for so many, and all the charities and all the good will that you’ve done. He would be very, very, and is, is very proud of you.”