Dale Earnhardt Jr. received hundreds of special text messages after his retirement announcement Tuesday, but one in particular stayed with him.
Team owner Rick Hendrick reaffirmed what he told his driver after the closing question of the news conference: What late seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt would have said about his son.
“Rick texted me after the press conference to reiterate his comment about my father and knowing my father well and how he would have felt,” Earnhardt told NBCSN’s Marty Snider during an exclusive interview airing Wednesday at 6 p.m. on NASCAR America. “That means so much to me. It says a lot about Rick that it’s important to him to let me know these things.
“I trust Rick’s judgment. I know sometimes you hear, ‘Man, your father would be really proud.’ I’ve heard that a lot in my life. It’s hard to tell whether that person is just trying to make you feel good or trying to add to the moment. You don’t really know what that means.
“Rick really set me straight yesterday to be sure I was aware of how Dad would feel. I always get those questions (about) what would your dad think about this or that, and it’s hard to really be clear on exactly what he would think about some things in this world. Yesterday was very clear.”
What was the coolest text received by the 14-time most popular driver?
It came from a country music superstar.
“Kenny Chesney, that was cool,” Earnhardt said. “We communicate quite a bit. That was nice. I got so many long, long texts that were incredible from so, so many people.
“We have so many friendships, people you might not even see, but you stay in contact. So many texts from folks that were really, really touching and made my day. That kind of support. A lot of folks I’ve known all my life.
“When I was doing my speech, I worried I sounded monotone, and I wonder if anyone’s bored, I hate they have to suffer through this. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh man, you did good,’ so it’s great to get that positive feedback.”
Watch the full interview with the Hendrick Motorsports driver above, or watch at 6 p.m. today on NBCSN’s NASCAR America for reaction to the interview from host Carolyn Manno and analysts Kyle Petty and Greg Biffle.