For most of his 37 years on earth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had never thought about his family history much further back than his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt.
Earnhardt Jr. said he "never really cared" about his great-grandfather and beyond, even when friends suggested he learn more about his family tree.
But about six months ago, Earnhardt Jr. started working on his family's history with the help of a genealogist – and he's glad he did.
"We don't have enough time in the day to be talking about how much fun I've had working on my family tree," he told reporters Friday at Kansas Speedway.
The topic came up because Earnhardt Jr. was discussing how his interest in genealogy gave this week's visit to the White House an entirely new meaning.
The driver had visited the White House and taken a tour before, but when guides pointed out a 200-year-old portrait of George Washington, Earnhardt Jr. had much more appreciation for it this time.
"They'd told us about it before, but I didn't really grasp what that meant and how old that piece truly is," he said. "To be standing there in front of it and literally be able to reach out and touch it is a pretty amazing thing."
And after doing some research about his family, Earnhardt Jr. felt the same way. He not only discovered who his great-grandfather was, but also learned about his great-great-grandfather – and even found their burial plots near Kannapolis, N.C.
So he hopped in a car with his grandmother, mother, sister and girlfriend and drove them up to the cemetery to see a piece of the family's history.
"It's really cool to stand there over somebody that's responsible for you being there," said Earnhardt Jr., who saw the graves of relatives born as far back as 1809. "That was pretty neat."
Earnhardt Jr.'s goal is to put together a "well-organized document" to show family members and give to his nieces and nephews.
Plus, he said, he figured he would save any future offspring a lot of trouble.
"If I have any (kids) one day, they won't have to do the work," he said.