Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, announced today that he plans to retire at the end of the 2017 season. The 42-year-old Earnhardt is married to Amy Earnhardt, who wrote that she is “so proud” of her husband for making it back to driving after suffering a concussion and is “even prouder” of his decision to walk away.
Hendrick Motorsports announced that Earnhardt, the son of the late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, will retire from the NASCAR Cup Series after 18 seasons. He began driving in the Cup Series in 1999 and joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. He was named NASCAR’s most popular driver for 14 consecutive years and his final NASCAR race will be on November 19 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Amy wrote about her husband’s decision to retire:
I’m so proud of Dale for working so hard to get back and even prouder for his courage & self awareness to make the decision to retire. I’m sure God has many other great plans for him and us!
Here’s what you need to know about Amy.
1. Amy Never Watched a Single NASCAR Race Before They Met in 2009
Amy, whose maiden name is Reimann, met Earnhardt in 2008 when he hired the Texas native to work on his Mooresville, North Carolina home. According to Savannah Now, she hadn’t seen a NASCAR race before meeting him and didn’t even know about his famous family. She’d heard of his name, but didn’t know about the history behind it.
When they met, Amy was working for Wakefield Beasley & Associates. According to her LinkedIn profile, she worked at the firm after graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Interior Design.
In 2010, she joined Micamy Design Studio and is the director of the Charlotte Studio. The firm’s specialties include “Corporate Office, Hospitality, Club House – Amenity Centers, Residential, Mixed-Use Condominiums, Retail, Dealership/Showroom, Medical Office and High-End Residential.”
Although they started dating in 2009, they didn’t make the relationship public until they appeared together at the 2011 NASCAR Awards.
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2. Amy Was Still Married to UK Assistant Football Coach Tommy Cook When She Met Earnhardt
Earnhardt is Amy’s second husband. She was previously married to Tommy Cook, an assistant defensive line coach at the University of Kentucky, notes ESPN. They were still together when she met Earnhardt. Cook’s LinkedIn page notes that he is currently an executive recruiter at Cameron Smith & Associates. He also worked for the football programs at Kent State and Purdue.
Amy and Cook’s relationship made it into the tabloids. A friend told the National Enquirer that Cook thought Earnhardt “stole” his wife. Cook’s father told the Enquirer that his son won’t talk about his marriage to Amy, but he confirmed the tabloid’s story.
Larry Brown Sports reports that Cook and Amy married in 2006. It’s not clear when they divorced, but the Enquirer’s sources claim Earnhardt “broke up her marriage.” A 2017 ESPN The Magazine feature notes that Amy was already “split” from Cook when they met.
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3. Amy & Earnhardt Got Engaged During a Trip to Germany in 2015
Earnhardt finally popped the question while he was on a family trip through Germany in June 2015 to learn about his famous family’s heritage. She said yes, and the two celebrated with photos on social media. ESPN reports that Earnhardt proposed in a Lutheran church his family attended 300 years ago. Earnhardt’s family emigrated from Germany to the U.S. in 1744.
“I’m completely overwhelmed with love & joy. Happiest girl in the world! I love you so much @DaleJr,” Amy tweeted.
Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, also congratulated her brother.
The proposal was a surprise to Amy, and planned by Kelley and Earnhardt, Savannah Now reports.
“I was in shock, complete shock. My hands were on my face,” Amy said in 2015. “It was really, really weird. I don’t know. It wasn’t like this jumping up and down, screaming. For the next three hours, I was shaking. I just couldn’t get it together.”
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4. They Finally Got Married on New Year’s Eve With Fellow NASCAR Drivers In Attendance
A year and a half after getting engaged, Amy and Earnhardt finally married on December 31, 2016 to ring in the new year. Earnhardt obsessively chronicled the day on Twitter and Instagram, posting photos of himself getting his wedding haircut and complaining about how hard it is to rent a tuxedo.
As one would expect, the guest list for the wedding of the most popular NASCAR driver included other big names from the sport. As USA Today notes, both Kyle Busch and Danica Patrick were there.
The wedding took place at Childress Vineyards in North Carolina.
@dalejr and I are beginning 2017 as Mr. & Mrs.! Thank you for loving me and making me your wife. My heart is truly filled with love and joy. @ivyrobinson @corbingurkin @heartstonefilms @partytables_linensanddrapery @partyreflections @johnluptonevents @eventfulfurniture @splitsecondsound @childresswines @jamisvay @afr_rentals @cecinewyork @atheneumcreative @signaturechandeliers @bohoink @verawangbride @mitchellscatering @royalparking @royal_restrooms @eyedialogue #artofcake
The wedding came during a difficult moment in his career for Earnhardt. He missed the second half of the 2016 season after being diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms last summer. On December 8, 2016, he was cleared to race again, Hendrick Motorsports announced.
“Amy changed my life,” Earnhardt said in an ESPN interview. He added, “Amy’s really stuck with me through a lot of years and I’ve changed as a person. I think she’s been a huge part of that. I went from being very selfish and self-centered and just about what was good for me, what I wanted to do in that moment. [I] have grown to be more considerate, more caring, much happier. Everything about my life is better.”
For the past three years, Amy and Earnhardt have gone to couples therapy. According to ESPN, this was Earnhardt’s idea, since he’s seen it work with other members of his family. Earnhardt said his therapist helped him put his life on the right track because he “didn’t know how to be a good person” for many years. He made sure he became a better man for his wife.
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5. Amy Drove a Racecar in the 2014 Better Half Dash & Came in 11th Place
Amy got behind the wheel of a racecar herself in 2014 for the annual Better Half Dash, a charity race where NASCAR wives and girlfriends compete to raise money for their favorite charities at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Although the 2014 event raised $70,000 for their charities, Amy didn’t do so well. She wrecked her car during the first lap, so she came in 11th place, notes NASCAR.
Before the race, Amy told Fox Sports that she was really nervous about the race.
“I’m about as green as it gets, so I need a little bit of practice, but I hope we’re competitive and I hope we get the trophy,” Amy told Fox Sports in 2014. “Dale talked me into it. It was offered to me by Kelley (Earnhardt Miller, Junior’s sister). And I didn’t really know what the Better Half Dash was, to be honest. I mentioned it to Dale and he said, ‘Yeah, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it. It’s going to be so much fun.’”
“She is starting to kind of realize she might of bit off more than she can chew on the driving side of it,” Earnhardt told Fox Sports about Amy in 2014. “I think it’s a good experience for her. She is having fun with it. I just told her just, ‘Enjoy it and don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. You’re not a race car driver — just go out there and have fun.’”
The 2017 Better Half Dash is scheduled for October 5, 2017. The 2016 race also raised $70,000 for the Motor Racing Outreach, Speedway Children’s Charities and other charities.
Although Amy and Earnhardt don’t have any children, they are hopeful that the day will come when they become parents. Earlier this month, he talked about becoming a parent on his podcast with Amy. In the episode, Earnhardt said he wouldn’t push his children to become racecar drivers.
“It’s freaking expensive,” EArnhardt said, later explaining to his wife, “My dad paid a lot. I think I would be super proud of them if that’s what they wanted to do.” She said she’d only discourage their future children to race because of the danger. Earnhardt’s father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., died in a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.
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