It’s hard not to be moved by the father-son montage shared by NASCAR on its Facebook page, just one week after the 16th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death…and just one day before Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first major race in months.
The video begins with a clip of the senior Earnhardt preparing for races as his son watches on. By the end, their roles change dramatically as the legendary dad watches his son hit the track.
The racing world lost Earnhardt on February 18, 2001, when his car slammed into the retaining wall at the Daytona 500. His death is among the most devastating tragedies in sports history. He was just 49 years old.
During his short life, Earnhardt had his own personal cheerleader in his son. The video posted by NASCAR shows a very young Dale Earnhardt Jr. at his dad’s side for what seemed like every race. The video starts with the younger Earnhardt asking his dad, “How was the race?”
Earnhardt gave a perfect fatherly response: “Well it was hot, but it was fast. Just like you told me to go.”
The montage is appropriately paired with a new song by Zac Brown Band called “My Old Man.” NASCAR’s social media post quotes one of the lyrics from the song: “I can still remember every lesson he taught me.”
Earnhardt Jr. responded on Twitter saying, “Made my eyeballs sweat (tear emoji).”
Made my eyeballs sweat 💦 https://t.co/VUW02DSPox
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 25, 2017
Earnhardt Jr., now 42, of course went on to walk in his father’s footsteps. He has 26 career victories, putting him in the top 30 on NASCAR’s all-time race winners list. He’s also qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times. Midway through the powerful video, Earnhardt is there to cheer on his son, who became a very popular driver, just like dear old dad.
Earnhardt Jr. sat out the end of the 2016 season because of a concussion from a June wreck. The resulting blurry vision from the injury cost him 18 races last year. He returned to the Daytona International Speedway on February 26, where he finished 37th in the 2017 Daytona 500, ending early because of an accident.
Despite a loss, he seems to be in good spirits, making jokes about not needing to urinate during the race.
"I didn't pee in the racecar Sunday."
The over 40 racecar driver text to his interior mechanic. pic.twitter.com/mNzU8z712a
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) March 1, 2017
He’s also proof that being like your dad isn’t all that bad, and can, in fact, be pretty great.