Dale Jarrett’s unique relationship to two generations of Earnhardts is among the highlights of the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast.
In the program’s 10th episode, the NBC Sports analyst and 1999 NASCAR champion talks about his role as a mentor to many Sprint Cup drivers – and explains that it was a conversation with seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt that drove home the importance of leaving a legacy for the greater good.
“I sat in on a number of conversations that he had with NASCAR, and he wasn’t looking for something that would help him at Richard Childress Racing,” Jarrett said. “He was looking for things that were going to make for great competition and continue to grow numbers as far as the number of fans to make the sport bigger and better.
“I had a conversation with him after the first time I was in one of those meetings, and it struck me if the biggest name in our sport at the time could go in, and he wasn’t talking about things that would be beneficial to him and his race team. … That’s a lesson to me. I knew then that was something I wanted to carry forward.”
The 32-time winner in NASCAR’s premier series carried some sage advice to the next generation, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jarrett recounted being at the victory celebration at Daytona International Speedway for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the first Cup race at track after his father’s death.
“Dale Jr.’s been through something in his life that no one else has ever experienced,” Jarrett said. “So I didn’t know how to talk to him. I wasn’t trying to replace his dad. I wouldn’t even try to do that.
“There were times he was looking for someone to talk to, and it wasn’t as much me talking and telling him things as much as it was me just listening. I have what I think is a great relationship with him and I appreciate all that he’s been through and the way he has handled being the most popular figure in our sport for a long time.”
Among the other topics discussed by Jarrett, who was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013:
–His emphasis on reinvesting time in his children’s lives after retiring from driving (Jarrett is planning to attend more than 50 baseball games this season with UNC Charlotte, where his son, Zack, is an outfielder).
–His thoughts on the two-weekend winning streak of Kyle Busch and the defending series champion’s comeback from last year’s injuries. “You hate to see anyone have to deal with a devastating injury like that,” Jarrett said. “But it makes you appreciate things more. As crazy as it sounds, I’m not sure it wasn’t the best thing that could have happened to Kyle Busch. … He’s always been as talented as anyone I’ve seen drive a race car. There are things Kyle Busch can do with a race car, that other drivers, this includes Tony Stewart, can’t.”
–The legacy he wanted to leave behind of being known more for how he kept “the sport’s best interests in mind” than for how he performed on the track.
–His friendship with NBA analyst and former superstar Charles Barkley, who once went for a memorable and terrifying ridealong with Jarrett.
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