The relationship between former NASCAR driver Ken Schrader and the Earnhardt family runs deep. A close friend of Dale Earnhardt during their time in NASCAR’s top series, Schrader also serves as a father figure of sorts — or maybe he’s more like a crazy uncle — to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
All of the stories came out in an episode of the “Dale Jr. Download” podcast. But among all of the laughs and can-you-believe-it stories, the dialogue that stood out most and made the rounds on social media Wednesday involved plenty of emotion.
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The background: Schrader was one of the first people to approach Dale Earnhardt’s car after the 2001 Daytona 500 wreck that proved fatal for Earnhardt. And in the 19 years since, Schrader has not spoken a public word about what he saw.
That’s of such importance to Junior, who closed the emotional podcast by reading from a note he wrote to Schrader.
“I’ve known you a long time and a lot of time his passed since that happened,” Earnhardt Jr. reads. “And you’ve been a great friend to me. You’re one of only a few to see the darkest moment for my dad. Though you have intimate knowledge of those moments, you are a keeper of that delicate information. It makes me feel close to you, Kenny. I feel pain for you to have to carry that memory, but you carry it for me, you carry it for (sister) Kelley, for dad’s family, you carry it for anyone who’s ever cheered for him. It’s a secret that you’ll keep ’til your last breath. Kenny, I know you might sometimes wish you weren’t the one, but I’m glad it was you.”
Watch the entire final clip below, and catch the full episode here. It’s well worth the listen.
"I feel pain for you to have to carry that memory, but you carry it for me… you carry it for anyone who's ever cheered for him."
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) March 11, 2020