Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes watching replays of his races, particularly those he’s won. He has seen his 2004 Daytona 500 victory numerous times. He still relives his stunning victory in The Winston from his 2000 rookie season.
But none was quite like watching his Wednesday viewing of the stirring triumph in the July 2001 race at Daytona International Speedway, the first at the track since the death of his father on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
The race was shown on NBCSN as a “#NASCARThrowback viewing party” that encouraged an audience of fans, drivers and team members to tweet while watching. Within an hour of the green flag, the hashtag had become the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States and drew more than 400 tweets per minute as the checkered flag flew for Earnhardt’s No. 8 Chevrolet.
“It was pretty fun having that instant communication and discussion and dialogue with the social media platforms that we have today while you were watching that,” said Earnhardt, who has been voted by fans as NASCAR’s most popular driver for 13 consecutive years. “It felt like I was in a big room with everybody watching it together. That was great. I thought it was a good experience and one that I hope that they continue to try. You know I love the old stuff and I think the fans enjoy those iconic races and moments in the sport. There are so many to choose from.”
Earnhardt said it was a last-minute decision for him to take in the race at home with fiancée Amy Reimann (who tweeted a photo of Earnhardt watching from a bar at his house.).
“I really didn’t plan on watching the race, but it just so happened that I was sitting in the house with nothing to do,” he said. “If they get the drivers that are involved in those events to sort of play along on social media, I think it adds to the experience for the people watching. I think if you won the race, it’s certainly exciting to be a part of that experience.
Earnhardt said he had watched the July 2001 race several times (“I like to sort of refresh my memory of what went on.”) – once a few years ago with his NBC Sports analyst Steve Letarte, his former crew chief (who also watched the race with Earnhardt for an NBC feature last year).
“Me and (Letarte) were still working together, maybe one night at the house drinking beers I put it on and we watched it,” Earnhardt said. “He was joking with me about it as it was coming on last night that we were going to watch it again. I thought it was great. Like I say it was a super good treat for me. I was super humbled by how everybody plugged in.
“It’s great to be reminded about stuff like that. That was a special night. I’m glad that people think it’s cool.”