Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart weren’t always the fast friends that they are now.
In fact, it took a scuffle for them to realize they should be pals.
The two retired Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers talked on Earnhardt Jr.’s “Dale Jr. Download” released Tuesday, and reminisced about the first time they met — in the now-NASCAR Xfinity Series hauler at Pikes Peak International Raceway on June 14, 1998.
Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart were called there after Stewart “punted (Junior) into Turn 1” following an intense battle on the track.
“There was an altercation and pushing and shoving between me and his crew chief,” Earnhardt Jr. remembered. “Nobody ever really got popped or anything.”
Fast forward one week later when both drivers were in Milwaukee for a then-Busch Grand National Series race. Stewart stopped Dale Jr. in the pits.
“I would never have done this so it probably would have been awkward for a long time if it was up to me,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “But he came up to me … and said, ‘Hey man, we’re going to be racing each other a long time, so let’s be friends. Let’s not run into each other anymore. Let’s not drag this out.’
“He’s like, ‘I’ve got no problem with you. Let’s be cool.’
“And we’ve been cool.”