Dale Earnhardt stood at the dirt tracks' edge on a brisk November morning in his native Kannapolis, North Carolina. Dale had fond memories from this track, where his dad had won living money many times back in the day. But that was in the '60s and early '70s. This was November 19th, 2003. The last race at Homestead was 2 days ago, and Dale had announced his retirement once and for all; or so he thought at the time. Looking over the old dirt track, Dale swore he could hear his daddy, his voice deep and with authority. "Dale", said the voice, "You know I never got much of a chance to do what I wanted, and when I died I was planning on joining them NASCAR guys out on the paved tracks. I never got to decide when my racing time was over; you do, go a couple more years at least son, and never forget; I'm proud of you." Dale broke down crying, and promised the voice seemingly in his head that it'd be done. Dale called up his friend Richard Childress when he got home. "Rich, I know we(s) got that new guy, Harvick. But I want to do a couple more seasons." there was a silence, then "Dale, I got Kevin signed already, but if you're sure of this, I'm sure he'll be happy to let ya back in the 3 car." Dale paused for a second, then said "Yes Rich, I'm sure of it, I'ma drive the hell out of that racecar." Rich paused for a long moment, then replied "Alrighty Dale, if this is what you want, it will be done."
At Daytona the sun rose into the sky, and the teams, drivers and cars filed out into the garages and onto pitroad. The talk of the garage was Dale's miraculous return, and everyone waved as the Intimidator walked by. Down the line of garages he came, wearing that same GM Goodwrench fire-suit as always, with his trademark grin and Intimidator exclusive swagger. "Heya boy, how ya doin'?" Dale asked Kevin Harvick. "Oh, hey Dale, I'm fine, the 30 car's up in the second row. 3rd place, pretty good starting position." Dale just gave a nod, gave Kevin a little shoulder squeeze and a handshake, wished him good luck, and walked back to where his son, Dale Jr., was positioned; in 9th. "Alrighty Junior, just remember we've got us the best cars out here, so this is our race to win, son. Just cruise around for the first 400 miles or so. Don't make any stupid mistakes. Work with your teammates." Dale Jr. nodded his agreement, and Dale went to converse with his other drivers.
The green flag waved on 2004's Daytona 500, and 43 cars roared to life. Throughout the day Dale Jr. worked his way slowly and naturally up the pack, then cruised around 5th for most of the race. Dale Sr. took the lead 3 times throughout the race and overall led 34 laps. Michael Waltrip ran midpack most of the day, then late on booted his car into gear, roaring up to the front of the pack and staying right behind his teammate Dale Jr. The race was no contest, Dale Jr. won his first Daytona 500 and Michael Waltrip came in second. Earnhardt Sr. finished 8th and was happier than anyone had ever seen. Kevin Harvick got caught up in a wreck mid-race.
The rest of the season went alright for Sr., with 4 wins and 11 top 10s. He did get 1 DNF at Richmond after he tried to avoid a lapped car, but ended up just tapping it and by extension rolling his car. He finished 8th in points.
Earnhardt Sr.'s only win of 2005 was his fourth and final Daytona 500. Overall he got 3 top 10s and 6 DNFs, mostly because Sr. refused to slow down more for turns and couldn't hold his car down like he used to. At the end of 2005, Sr., feeling his father and himself were satisfied, and knowing he was not likely to win any more races in his career, retired with 113 wins to his name. Dale finished his final season 12th in points. Richard Childress jokingly asked if he was sure, and Dale, completely seriously, said that yes, he was sure. Harvick got the #3, and from there on the TLs remerge.