Lessons from a Legend
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s journey to becoming one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers was filled with lots of challenging and disappointing moments along the way.
And the two-time Daytona 500 winner and 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee hopes to inspire kids in all sports to face their fears and never give up through his new children’s book Buster’s Trip to Victory Lane.
“The stories in the book are definitely relatable for me, personally,” says Earnhardt, who won a record 15 straight NASCAR Most Popular Driver awards from 2003 to 2017. “I was really small statured when I was young, and very shy and introverted, and I think Buster is kind of the same way. He goes through these experiences learning how to handle his emotions.”
The book teaches kids perseverance, whether they are starting something new, are struggling to learn a difficult skill, or need motivation to keep trying when life becomes challenging. Plus, readers are treated to lots of inside details regarding Earnhardt’s journey.
Check out what else Earnhardt shared about his book and childhood:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What inspired you to want to take on writing a children’s book?
EARNHARDT: My daughters. Once you start having kids, everyone gives you books, and before you know it you have your own mini library. I noticed that they would gravitate to certain books. When the opportunity came about to write ‘Buster,’ I thought it would be a fun challenge to see if I could create a story that would connect with kids.
SKL: What’s the key message you want young readers and their parents to take away?
EARNHARDT: My hope is that Buster’s message helps kids and their families learn how to handle emotions and it also encourages them to not let fear hold them back.
SKL: How much did you draw upon your own experiences as a youth in writing it?
EARNHARDT: We really went after crafting a story that related to me personally. Buster’s name comes from my dad’s nickname as a little boy. There are a lot of other fun Easter eggs in the book that connect to different things in my life. The type of car that Buster is resembles an old dirt car that my dad and grandfather used to race, and the character Jimmy Jam is a nod to Jimmie Johnson, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion.
SKL: How valuable was it in your development to face some adversity and disappointment along the way?
EARNHARDT: I went through a lot of ups and downs and battled my own insecurities along the way. Most people who are successful in their field usually fight hard to get where they are. I think it is always important to remember that to get what you want you have to work hard - it’s always ok to need help and work together along the way too.
SKL: How did you learn to deal with nerves and pressure and remain confident in your abilities?
EARNHARDT: Like Buster, I can relate to experiencing anxiety and nervousness. It’s something I’ve worked through since I was a kid. Over time, I realized that having nerves is normal and can be a great motivation. It also helped me when I started to reframe my focus from myself and more on helping others. When I began to lean more into helping others succeed, I realized it helped me in my own journey, and that’s something I wanted to include as a message in the book.
SKL: Your book tackles the terrific message of kids learning to embrace their differences – why was that important to you to weave into the story?
EARNHARDT: I’ve seen how powerful it is when kids connect to a story, so it was important to me that the book encouraged kids to face their fears by working together. Everyone is different, but we all experience or have some type of fear. Through Buster’s journey, I hope kids learn that we can overcome more when we accept each other and work together.
Renowned mental skills coach Darleen Santore, author of THE ART OF BOUNCING BACK, on helping young athletes develop the mental strength to handle adversity in sports and life
Acclaimed developmental psychologist Dr. Peter C. Scales, author of THE COMPETE-LEARN-HONOR PLAYBOOK, on cultivating character and helping youth thrive as individuals and athletes
Sara Slattery – NCAA champion, former collegiate cross country coach, and co-author of HOW SHE DID IT – encourages parents of young athletes to stress multiple sports over specializing to build athleticism and lay the foundation for greater success
Former elite level swimmer Kim Fairley – the second woman to receive a full scholarship for swimming at USC and author of SWIMMING FOR MY LIFE – shares tips for parents and coaches to help athletes battle loneliness and social isolation