by Bobby Markos
While the name Earnhardt is synonymous with stock car racing, many fans aren’t as familiar with family patriarch Ralph, who began their great racing lineage. Ralph Lee Earnhardt was born in 1928 in Kannapolis, North Carolina and raced out of the garage behind the Earnhardt family home for many years, before passing away suddenly in September of 1973, a little over a year before Dale Jr. was born. While Dale never got to know his grandfather, he has learned much about his mastery of the Carolina dirt tracks and discovered a lot about him through the first two seasons of Lost Speedways. This week, Dale Jr. and co-host Mike Davis sat down with Dale’s uncle, Danny Earnhardt, to gain more insight into the past generations of the family.
Guests have traveled far and wide to the Bojangles Studio for the Download, but Danny walked only a few steps from the JR Motorsports race shop, where he has worked since 2007. The conversation opens up with what life was like for Danny growing up, who was the youngest of the five Earnhardt children (Kaye, Cathy, Dale and Randy). Dale asks Danny about what kind of father Ralph was, and how much of a role Danny and the other kids played in his racing career. Danny recalls stories of going to the Carolina bullrings with Ralph and helping warm up his late model before race events.
Dale and Danny’s conversation has many sincere moments, like when they talk about the day that Ralph passed away. Danny revealed he was at school at the time, and when he found out he went for a long drive with his cousin Doug. They also have a heart to heart about Dale Sr. passing away at Daytona, how they ended up at the hospital together and what they can remember from that tragic evening.
Danny opens up about his life after school, and how he ended up working at Cannon Mills for over 20 years. All the while he served as a tire carrier on Dale Sr.’s Sportsman team on the weekends. In 2004, Danny went full-time racing, taking a position at Dale Earnhardt Inc, which brought him in close proximity to Dale Jr. The conversation covers some of the behind the scenes happenings of the team at that time, as well as what life was like on the road for Danny.
Listeners can expect an intimate conversation between two Earnhardt's that uncovers a lot of family folklore and healing from tragedy. While Danny works in the shop at JRM today, the two have never had the opportunity to dive deep into many of these topics, so Earnhardt fans won’t want to miss this chat.
Earlier in the episode, Dale caught up with Kyle Weatherman, who you might remember being mentioned in last week’s episode after the two had a dust-up during the Xfinity race at Richmond. Kyle gave his take on the encounter, as well as his plans for the infamous “Jr Was Here” bumper, which he plans to auction off and donate proceeds to the Dale Jr. Foundation. The two also talk about Weatherman’s start in the sport and how he arrived at Mike Harmon Racing in Denver, North Carolina.
On the opening segment, Dale and Mike unpack from an eventful NASCAR weekend at Bristol, which saw two wild outcomes in both the Xfinity and Cup races. On Ask Jr, listeners ask about Dale’s thoughts on the 2022 schedule changes, if he thinks we need a Bristol Dirt race, how NASCAR inspects a damaged car, if he’s ever impeded a driver on track after contact and how his NASCAR playoffs bracket is looking. All of this and more on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download - available on this website and all major podcast platforms.