NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. Reflects On Racing With Late Father | Megyn Kelly TODAY

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American Today News

DEGREES. >> YOU’RE SO BOSSY. >> I’M JUST GIVING YOU ADVICE. >> WELCOME, DALE. GREAT TO HAVE YOU HERE. DALE EARNHARDT JR., EVERYBODY. SO, RACING IS LITERALLY IN YOUR BLOOD. >> YEAH. >> GRANDFATHER. AND YOUR FATHER. >> YEAH, ACTUALLY ON BOTH SIDES OF MY FAMILY. MY DAD RACED. HIS DAD RACED. ON MY MOM’S SIDE, MY GRANDFATHER WAS A MECHANIC AND THEY WERE BODY MEN. THEY WERE WORKING ON THE CARS OR DRIVING THEM. AND SO, EVERYWHERE I WENT AS A KID, THERE WAS A GARAGE IN THE BACKYARD OF EVERY HOUSE, WITH A RACE CAR IN IT. AND I WAS CLIMBING ALL OVER THOSE THINGS AND TRYING TO LEARN WHAT YOU COULD AND GO TO THE RACES, AS A KID, WAS SO AMAZING.

I GREW UP AROUND IT. >> YOU HAD SUCH SUCCESS IN THE RACING WORLD. I READ THAT YOU WERE VOTED 15 YEARS IN A ROW BY THE FANS AS THE MOST POPULAR NASCAR RACER. MOST POPULAR. MOST POPULAR DRIVER. THAT SPEAKS TO NOT ONLY YOUR SUCCESS BUT YOUR LIKABILITY, THAT THE FANS LOVE YOU. I DID NOT REALIZE THAT IN THE RACE WHERE YOUR DAD WAS KILLED, AT JUST 49 YEARS OLD, YOU WERE DRIVING, TOO, YOU CAME IN SECOND IN THAT SAME RACE. >> YEAH. I WAS IN THAT RACE. WE HAD COMPETED TOGETHER FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON. IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE TO BE ABLE TO RACE FOR MY DAD. I WAS DRIVING A CAR HE OWNED. ALSO TO COMPETE WITH HIM ON THE SAME TRACK. I REMEMBER WHEN THE FIRST RACE THAT I WENT TO, THAT WE WERE GOING TO COMPETE TOGETHER, YOU GO OUT TO PRACTICE, EVERYBODY GOES OUT AND PRACTICING THEIR CAR A LITTLE BIT AND SEE HOW YOUR CAR DRIVES AND FEELS.

AND I COULDN’T WAIT TO GET ON THE TRACK WITH MY DAD, TO JOIN, YOU KNOW, SHARE THE TRACK WITH HIM. AS I’M OUT THERE, I’M LOOKING FOR HIM ON THE TRACK. AND HE GOES BY, AND I SPEED UP TO KEEP UP WITH HIM AND WATCH HIM. I’M WATCHING HIM DRIVE HIS CAR. IT WAS JUST SURREAL BECAUSE HE WAS A LEGEND TO ME AND TO A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE, WON SEVEN CHAMPIONSHIPS. AND HE WAS EXTREMELY POPULAR, AS WELL. AND SO, I WAS, YOU KNOW, LUCKY AND GLAD TO COMPETE WITH HIM SOME.

WE RACED TOGETHER AND ENJOYED VICTORIES TOGETHER IN VICTORY LANE. SOME OF MY MOST FONDEST MEMORIES ARE THE WINS THAT HE WAS WITH ME IN VICTORY LANE. A LOT OF TIMES HE WOULD COME TO VICTORY LANE AFTER WE WOULD WIN. I WOULD RIDE WITH HIM ON HIS AIRPLANE TO THE TRACK AND BACK HOME. WE WOULD WIN A RACE AND HE WOULD COME IN, GOOD JOB, YOU HAVE TO FIND A RIDE HOME BECAUSE I’M LEAVING.

>> HE WOULD BE SO PROUD OF YOU. I MEAN, THAT’S JUST OBVIOUS, ALL OF YOUR SUCCESS AND THE MAN YOU’VE BECOME. AND THE COURAGE YOU’VE SHOWN IN SPEAKING OUT IN A WAY THAT’S GOING TO HELP OTHER YOUNG KIDS AND OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE ENGAGED IN SPORT. WE’RE GOING TO GET T >>> WE’RE BACK NOW WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR., THE LEGEND. YOU’VE BEEN OPEN ABOUT CONCUSSIONS IN YOUR SPORT. SOMETHING WE’RE HEARING MORE AND MORE TOP ATHLETES SPEAK ABOUT. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY CONCUSSIONS YOU SUFFERED? >> YOU KNOW, I CAN GO BACK AND I DON’T KNOW, YOU KNOW, A DEFINITE NUMBER. BUT I CAN GO BACK AND COUNT THE ONES THAT I DO KNOW. WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE ACCIDENTS AND CRASHES AND YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU’RE CONCUSSED. YOU DON’T — WE’RE SO MUCH MORE SELF-AWARE, ESPECIALLY AS YOU GET OLDER, YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR BODY MORE AND YOU REALIZE WHEN THERE’S A PROBLEM, MUCH EASIER.

BUT I DON’T KNOW WHEN I STARTED TO, YOU KNOW, SOME OF THE HITS STARTED TO TAKE THEIR TOLL, WHAT I WENT THROUGH WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. I’VE HAD A LOT OF HARD WRECKS. I STARTED UNDERSTANDING, AS I GOT OLDER, AROUND 2012, I HAD A CONCUSSION THAT I WAS CERTAINLY AWARE THERE WAS AN ISSUE. AND I KNOW THAT I DIDN’T NEED TO BE DRIVING A CAR. AND I NEEDED TO SEE A DOCTOR.R I WAS SCARED. WHEN I WAS YOUNGER AND YOU WOULD CRASH, IT WAS A BADGE OF HONOR. I GOT DINGED UP. I’M SEEING STARS OR I’M DIZZY. AND YOU WOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND BE TOUGH. BUT AS I GOT OLDER, I GOT SCARED. I HAD AN ACCIDENT THAT LITERALLY SCARED ME TO GO SEE A DOCTOR. I WAS HAVING ISSUES AND SYMPTOMS THAT I DIDN’T WANT TO LIVE WITH. YOU KNOW? I HAD ANOTHER ISSUE IN 2016. >> AND YOU SAID, I’M GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENT CHOICE. TO YOUR CREDIT, YOU’VE SPOKEN OUT ABOUT IT. A LOT OF FOLKS THINK IT’S NOT THE MANLY THING TO DO. AND IT IS THE DEFINITION OF MANLY TO LEAD AND TO BE COURAGEOUS. I KNOW YOU AGREED TO DONATE YOUR BRAIN TO HEAD INJURY RESEARCH.

GOD BLESS YOU FOR THAT. TRULY. CAN I ASK YOU? WE’RE SO HAPPY HERE AT NBC THAT YOU DID MOVE ON TO THE NEW CHAPTER. YOU’RE GOING TO BE AN NBC ANALYST, ANALYZING THE RACES. IS THAT GOING TO BE HARD FOR YOU TO BE, LIKE, I COULD DO BETTER THAN THAT? >> I DON’T THINK SO. WE HAD SO MANY AMAZING RACE CAR DRIVERS IN NASCAR, AND IT’S GOING TO BE — I’VE BEEN AROUND RACING ALL MY LIFE. I DID WANT TO GET OUT OF THE CAR.

AND I MADE THE DECISION TO DO THAT. BUT I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE THE SPORT. YOU’VE BEEN AROUND THE TEAM ASPECT OF RACING SO MANY YEARS. YOU WANT TO BE AN ASSET FOR SOMETHING. I WANTED TO BE AT THE RACETRACK BUT I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO FIT IN. I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO GO IN THE BOOTH. NBC SAW SOMETHING THEY LIKED. THEY SAW TV GOLD. YOU AND YOUR WIFE, AMY, ARE DOING THIS RENOVATION SHOW. AND THEY HAVE A NEW BABY. HER NAME IS ILA ROSE. IS SHE GOING TO CONTINUE IN THE EARNHARDT TRADITION? >> I TELL AMY SHE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACING. SHE’S NOT GOING TO SEE ME RACING. IT MAY BE SOMETHING THAT IT DOESN’T REGISTER WITH HER. >> MAYBE SHE’S GOING TO BE INSPIRED TO BE A BROADCASTER.

>> SHE MIGHT. >> OR A RENOVATOR. DALE, THANK YOU SO MUCH. SO FUN HAVING YOU HERE. ALL THE BEST TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. JUNIOR, EVERYBODY. NBC SPORTS IS GOING TO KICK OFF COVERAGE FROM CHICAGOLAND .

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