Q&A: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Gets Us Up to Speed on ‘Renovation Realities: Dale Jr. & Amy’

How does it feel to go from topping 200 miles an hour at the track to renovating a 150-year-old home one brick at a time? In this case, slow and steady won the race.

For DIY Network’s all-new home-improvement series, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his wife, Amy, let the cameras follow along as they renovated their new (very, very old) vacation home in Key West, Florida. As we gear up for the premiere, Dale Jr. took us behind the scenes.

Dale Jr. and Amy's Key West home before renovations.

Photo by: Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Rocky Gonet/ AP Images

Dale Jr. and Amy's Key West home before renovations.

DIY: Was the decision to purchase and renovate your property a quick one, or did it take a while to get there?

Dale Jr.: [When we bought it, we thought we would] just clean up the yard and get rid of the animals living there. It took three years to get the courage to renovate it.

Uh-oh. The sounds are coming from inside the house.

Photo by: Emilee Ramsier

Emilee Ramsier

Uh-oh. The sounds are coming from inside the house.

DIY: You encountered quite a few creatures in your house — feral cats, cockroaches, bees, termites, spiders and scorpions! Were there any ‘prior tenants’ that made you say, “Nope, someone else can take care of that”?

Dale Jr.: The scorpions. They are just flat scary looking. I wasn’t sure how to handle the bees, either. Glad we knew someone who did. [Dale and Amy hired a pro to relocate them safely.]

DIY: Speaking of insects, the honeycombs you discovered in the joists between the first and second floors were pretty incredible. Were you at all tempted to try to save some of that stuff? ‘Earnhardt Honey’ has a nice ring to it...

Dale Jr.: No thanks! Honey in a jar is fine with me.

Dale Jr.'s definitely not going to crash through a water line with an excavator. No, sir.

Photo by: Emilee Ramsier

Emilee Ramsier

Dale Jr.'s definitely not going to crash through a water line with an excavator. No, sir.

DIY: Do you think you’ll get behind the wheel of an excavator again sometime, to continue to refine your technique? [In the first episode, Dale takes a shine to the construction team’s vehicles: “If it has an engine,” Amy notes, “he’ll try to drive it.”]

Dale Jr.: I sure will. The renovation gave me the confidence to do these things around my own personal property. I’m lining up projects as we speak.

Dale Jr. cuts down tile with a wet saw.

Photo by: Emilee Ramsier

Emilee Ramsier

Dale Jr. cuts down tile with a wet saw.

DIY: Did you have a favorite power tool among the pieces of equipment you wielded in working on the house?

Dale Jr.: The giant gas-powered saw. It was a real handful. I felt like I had really accomplished something working with that saw.

DIY: What went through your mind when you got the news that Hurricane Irma was going to make landfall in the Keys? [Irma struck in September while the project was in full swing.]

Dale Jr.: I knew the property was gonna be fine. The houses have been there for decades. I was more worried about the welfare of the locals. But they are resilient.

Other outdoor showers, please try harder.

Photo by: Emilee Ramsier

Emilee Ramsier

Other outdoor showers, please try harder.

DIY: The surfboard Kevin McCree painted for you [as an accent for the outdoor shower] is a pretty special detail, given that he painted your racecars for years. Would you say it’s one of your favorite features in the house?

Dale Jr.: It’s in the top three. The sink I made is pretty special to me. But back to the surfboard, the fact that Amy and I helped with the simple design does make it feel like we played a role in its greatness.

DIY: Did your and Amy’s renovation and design decisions for the house change at all after you found out Isla Rose was on the way? [The Earnhardts learned that Amy was pregnant in August, and announced the arrival of their new daughter on May 1.]

Dale Jr.: Not for me. I thought Isla would fit right into our lives seamlessly.

Dale Jr. and Amy relaxing on their finished front porch.

Photo by: Emilee Ramsier

Emilee Ramsier

Dale Jr. and Amy relaxing on their finished front porch.

DIY: There’s a scene in the first episode where a neighbor tells you the finished exterior of your place is beautiful — that must have been really gratifying, after all your hard work. Have you gotten other feedback from the community?

Dale Jr.: So far everyone is very happy with it. That was part of our main goal, to please the local community and give back to a town that has been so good to us.

DIY: You mention in that same episode that you really love the old bars and restaurants in Key West. Could you share a favorite local spot for first-time visitors?

Dale Jr.: I love this place called Grunts. It also has an awesome food truck parked out back.

Now, Dale Jr. Is that any way to treat one of your biggest fans?

Photo by: Emilee Ramsier

Emilee Ramsier

Now, Dale Jr. Is that any way to treat one of your biggest fans?

DIY: What are you most excited about sharing with viewers through the show?

Dale Jr.: How much work Amy and I did. I hope people are surprised we were so hands-on!

Tune in for the premiere of Renovation Realities: Dale Jr. & Amy on Saturday, June 2 at 9pm ET.

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