There’s a pointed episode in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s television show that encapsulates his remarkable transformation from a bashful, third-generation racer into a multimedia personality.
Earnhardt and his crew of storytellers-slash-ghost chasers-slash-racing enthusiasts are filming the second season of “Lost Speedways” at Myrtle Beach Speedway, the South Carolina track where Earnhardt says he learned “to be a racecar driver.” His father had picked Myrtle Beach nearly 30 years ago as the proving grounds to launch his son’s career, and the episode “Goodbye, Dear Friend,” is Earnhardt’s farewell to the speedway that shuttered late last year.
Footage shows a rail-thin 18-year-old who clearly had no idea where his career was headed. Earnhardt was happy racing late models, learning about cars and bartering for dinner with a fellow racer who was sponsored by a fried chicken chain.
“He was shy. He really didn’t want to interact with other people,” track announcer Bill Hennecy says in the episode. “The reason he didn’t interact is because, ‘I’m an Earnhardt. They expect more of me.’’’