By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — 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.’’’
All these years later, Earnhardt is still shy.
He’s a 46-year-old married father of two daughters, a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and the 15-time most popular driver as voted on by fans. Earnhardt still has social anxiety and was a wreck when NBC Sports launched its NASCAR coverage at Nashville with a heavily promoted pre-race show that featured him alongside country star Brad Paisley.