Dale Earnhardt Jr. may have retired as a full-time NASCAR driver back in 2017, but the JR Motorsports co-owner still competes every now and then. He raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway in 2018. He also ran the Xfinity race at Darlington back in August, mere weeks after he and his family were involved in a plane crash in Tennessee.
Dale Jr. certainly didn’t need to return to racing. He was thriving, and continues to thrive, as a broadcaster for NBC Sports, and, considering the amount of concussions he suffered during his career, he probably hasn’t missed the physical toll that professional auto racing has taken on his body.
But, according to a mini documentary chronicling Junior’s return to the track, there was one person who inspired him to get competitively behind the wheel of a stock car again: his now one-year-old daughter Isla Rose.
“Nothing would have been cooler and more important to me than being able to stand next to that car with Isla and [wife] Amy,” said Dale Jr., who placed fourth in the Richmond race. “I know Isla won’t remember it but one day we’ll be able to show her that we were here and what we were doing.”
“When I try to tell her what kind of dad she had and what kind of race car driver I was, I can say you were at this one race. Hopefully she gets a kick out of that.”
This isn’t the first time that Junior has publicly gushed about his baby girl. During an episode of the Dale Jr. Download podcast back in October 2018, Dale shared the moment that he “melted” after Isla grabbed him for the first time.
“You go away for two days, and you come back and you swear they’ve learned some major stuff in just like 48 hours,” Earnhardt said. “So I go and I put her on the changing table, and I’m changing her diaper. And she grabbed my elbow! And was, like, looking at me.”
“And like, man, that’s the first time she’s ever grabbed me. I was like, ‘HOLY COW! YOU LEARNED HOW TO DO THAT!’ And then I had one of the wipes. I got a wipe and I had one in my hand, and she’s starting to grab the wipe. And I’m like, ‘Hey! What are you doing?! That’s new!’ She’s grabby, just starting to grab.”
Maybe in a few years from now, the next thing Isla will be grabbing will be the wheel of a race car!