NEW YORK (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he believes his late father, seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, had a lot to do with his surviving a burning wreck at a sports car event in July.
Earnardt, interviewed for Wednesday night's edition of 60 Minutes on the CBS Television Network, was engulfed in flames after the Corvette he was driving at an American Le Mans Series event in Sonoma, Calif., spun and backed into a tire wall. The Nextel Cup star escaped with second-degree burns to his neck and legs, which hampered his racing for several weeks but did not sideline him.
"...At that moment, you think of everything...you think, '...This would really suck if it's the way I'm going out,"' Earnhardt told interviewer Mike Wallace.
Earnhardt's father was killed three years ago in a crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500, but Junior tells Wallace that it was his father who helped him escape from the burning car.
"I think he had a lot to do with me getting out of that car," says Earnhardt. "...I don't want to put some weird, you know, psycho twist on it like he was pulling me out or anything, but he had a lot to do with me getting out of that car. From the movement I made to unbuckle my belt to lying on the stretcher, I have no idea what happened. ... "
Earnhardt told Wallace the feeling was so real that when he reached safety, he began inquiring about the "person" who helped him out of the burning car. "I had my...PR man...by the collar screaming at him to find the guy that pulled me out of the car," recalls Earnhardt.
"He was like, 'Nobody helped you get out,' and I was like, 'That's strange because I swear somebody...had me underneath...my arms and was carrying me out of the car.' I mean, I swear to God."
Wallace asks, "And that was your dad?" Earnhardt responds, "Yeah, I don't know. You tell me. It...freaks me out today just talking about it. It just gives me chills."