Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson have had some pretty good times together. Back in the day, the longtime friends both raced for Hendrick Motorsports, and considering they were both in their twenties at the time, they definitely had their fair share of celebratory nights.
In an episode of the Dale Jr. Download podcast that’s been a long time coming, the pals talked about one of their craziest nights: The time that Jimmie saved Junior after he drunkenly cracked his head at the bottom of a pool.
It was back in 2002, and Johnson (who now has seven championships under his belt) had just won his second NASCAR Cup Series race. The late Ricky Hendrick, who was the son of Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, decided to throw a party. As many as 100 people showed up, according to Junior, and at one point in the night, it was time to move from the hot tub to the swimming pool. That’s when things went south.
Dale Jr.: So the hot tub’s at one end of the pool — the shallow end. There’s a handful of us in the hot tub, and man, it was hot. Had it cranked up pretty high.
[Podcast co-host Mike] Davis: Most are.
Dale Jr.: And I am like burning up! I gotta get in the swimming pool and cool off. And so I jumped into the pool and dove into the shallow end and hit my head.
Johnson: I’m telling you, it looked like a cartoon when you see the cartoon character dive in the shallow end and their feet are still sticking up. I swear, I stopped and his feet were still there, and I was like, this isn’t going to end well. And he stands up and [says], “Man, I think I hit my head.” And there’s blood just flowing, and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure you hit your head.”Advertisement
As Junior recalls, Johnson immediately sprung into action to help his buddy. Not exactly an easy thing to do, considering it was around 1 a.m., and they had been drinking all night.
“Jimmie is like, ‘We got a guy. HMS has a doctor. He’s on call, and he’ll meet us, and we’ll get this fixed.’ And I was, ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Not a problem, whatsoever.’ So Jimmie’s gonna breakaway from the party, but they’re celebrating him, his win and the success and all that. And so Jimmie got me to the hospital, and we met this guy in this clinic. So he unlocks the door and walks us in. He’s like, ‘Oh this is fine. You’re gonna be fine.’ …
“So he lays me down on this table, and he puts this little sheet over my head and starts to go to work. And Jimmie’s over in the corner playing with all the tools. … Jimmie’s walking around there going, ‘What does this do?!’ Bing, bing, bang, bang, banging on stuff. And it’s just a real funny scene.”Advertisement
Even after getting all patched up, Earnhardt still wasn’t done for the night. As you probably know, it’s not a great idea to sleep after sustaining a head injury. So, Junior took that to mean that he and Jimmie should keep right on drinking.
“We went back to the house, and I was like, ‘He told me not to go to sleep, so I guess we gotta sit up and drink some more beer,’” Dale said. “So we got right back to it.”
Several more beers later, and you’ve got a sleep walking Dale Earnhardt Jr. peeing in a closet.
Johnson: I was passed out on the floor and I heard a commotion and I looked up and Dale was sleep walking and had the closet door open and thought it was the bathroom. I was like, “He’s not going to — whoa, wait! Dale! Dale!”
Dale Jr.: I know, so I woke up standing up peeing. This is how it happened! I’ve never slept walked in my life, as far as I know, and when I woke up, it was because somebody was saying, ‘Hey, Dale! Hey!’ And I woke up and I’m like, ‘Oh, no! Oh, nooo!’”
What a story! Nothing better than two buddies and NASCAR legends riffing about the good ol’ days of NASCAR.
This post was originally published September 13, 2019.