Even if you are not a NASCAR fanatic, you probably know the name “Earnhardt.”
The racing world was devastated in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed during an accident in the last lap of the Daytona 500. The beloved name didn’t end there, though. It was carried on when the son of the iconic driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., made an unforgettable name for himself, ESPN reports.dalejr/Instagram
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that as Dale Jr. stepped away from racing at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, he only had one thing on his mind — family.
The driver wanted his family with him at the track as he drove his No. 88 car one final time, requesting his mother, stepfather, sister Kelley, brother and sister-in-law, his cousin, and longtime friend and employee, Mike Davis, all be there to watch.
— Kerry Dale Earnhardt (@KerryDEarnhardt) November 19, 2017
But he didn’t stop with those family members. Earnhardt explained:
“I have two families. These people who are here with me every weekend at the track, and the people who are always behind me at home. To have them all here together was the most important thing to me.”
It was clear to see his racing family felt the same way as they said their final goodbyes. Emotions were running high, as team owner Rick Hendrick teared up as he hugged Earnhardt:
“I think maybe I should have waited until after the race before I came in here and made everyone cry.”
According to Fox Sports, the driver expressed his close relationship with Hendrick, saying:
“He’s like a daddy. Trying to tell him how much he means to me is really hard.”
Earnhardt didn’t forget about the other part of his family on his final race day, taking time to sign as many autographs as he could for the fans who traveled across the country to be there to witness his last moments on the track.
Charles Ray, who came from Alabama, held NASCAR history in his hands with two black helmets signed by both father and son. He told ESPN:
“Dale’s daddy signed this for me at Talladega in 2000 and Dale Junior did, too. It was his first race there. But Junior’s got smudged. I wanted him to re-sign it. Or at least see it.”
The driver expressed how grateful he is for the people that surrounded him through his career:
“I was able to make so many freaking friendships. Everywhere I look, there’s somebody I care about. It just amazes me. I don’t know why. I don’t feel worthy of all that happening.”
CHAMPION ???????? pic.twitter.com/WsUZgoXTW7
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) November 20, 2017
The 43-year-old NASCAR star leaves the sport he loves with 14 consecutive most-popular driver awards and two Daytona 500 wins. He said:
“When I was little, I didn’t think I’d win the Daytona 500, I didn’t think I would have the fortune to be around the people that I’ve been around. And to have done what I’ve done, inside the car or outside the car, never would have dreamed it. Never!”
His father’s memory was brought into his final race when his racing crew, and every other crew, put out their hands for a half-mile of high-fives, reliving his dad’s celebration for his 1998 Daytona 500 win.
We’re home. Dale’s downstairs having a beer and I’m about to catch up on my shows. Seems like a normal Sunday night to me. ?
— Amy Earnhardt (@AmyEarnhardt) November 20, 2017
He waved goodbye one last time to the sport he grew up wishing he would be a part of and left the track for his new life with his pregnant wife by his side.
Watch the memorable high-five moment below.