As you might expect, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wondered what the response from his family, friends and fans would be once he snapped his NASCAR victory drought. But as he re-discovered last week after winning at Michigan, "the real reaction is always bigger than what you imagined."
Earnhardt Jr. rattled off several feel-good moments about the days following his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in four years when he met with reporters on Friday at Sonoma.
Among them: Stories from friends, a tweet from a celebrity and recognition from his peers.
L.W. Miller, who is married to Earnhardt Jr.'s sister Kelley, told the driver about a friend's father who had taken ill. The man was suffering from some sort of dementia and couldn't even recognize his own sons earlier this week – but he was aware of the No. 88's win at Michigan.
"All he was talking about was the race and us winning," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That really kind of brings it home and makes you realize how something like that affects a lot of people you know and makes a big difference in a lot of people's lives. Pretty amazing to hear a story like that."
Earnhardt Jr. was also flattered that musician Charlie Daniels took the time to tweet about the victory (even though the driver himself still won't tweet).
Yeah Jr. Way to go!!!— Charlie Daniels (@CharlieDaniels) June 17, 2012
"You don't ever take it for granted that people are tuned in that much," Earnhardt Jr. said. "For him to say something about it and mention it on his social media accounts meant a lot to me."
Earnhardt Jr. was still happy about receiving a visit from drivers like Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth in Victory Lane. He said giving congratulations to rival drivers is something he's done regularly, but he realized how much it actually meant when the roles were reversed.
"There were all kinds of cool stuff like that happening all week long," he said. "It made it pretty special."