I was fortunate enough to have a long interview that you can read here with Dale Earnhardt Jr. recently about his late father, Dale Earnhardt Sr. The full text of the interview will be published in Sunday's Charlotte Observer as part of our special section on the new NASCAR Hall of Fame and its first class of inductees (Earnhardt Sr. is one member of the five-man class).
Dale Jr. doesn't talk at length about his father very often, and I'm grateful for him doing this one to help Observer and ThatsRacin.com readers better understand his dad (who died in 2001).
Look for that special section in The Charlotte Observer Sunday. It has some great writing from Ron Green Sr. and Tom Higgins, who witnessed so much of NASCAR's history, as well as everything you need to know about the Hall of Fame to plan a visit. And here's a small taste of the Dale Jr. interview I did:
Q: It has been nine years since your father’s death at Daytona. As the years pass, what is it you hope people remember about him?
A: The one thing that you’re always scared is going to evaporate is how he made people feel when he walked into a room. He entered a room and changed its atmosphere. He had just such a powerful personality. Not like the power of a king, but just this energy that just filled the room.
And that stuff is so easy to forget. One day, it will be hard to recall that. One day I’m worried that everybody will just be looking at pictures and stats of him and that will be it. They’ll just be looking at him in a two-dimensional sort of way.
But he was three-dimensional. When he was at the track, you knew he was there, even if you couldn’t see him. You could just feel it. And that was an awesome feeling.
Q: How often do you think of him?
A: It’s always kind of hovering in the back of your mind, kind of like the hum of an air conditioner. Not something that bothers you -- something you can get used to living with. It’s a part of who you are.
It’s a good thing in most ways when I think of him because it’s definitely something that keeps me making better decisions more often. I make a lot of decisions based on feeling like that he’s over my shoulder still, and I’m glad for that.