Do you feel like you're letting down your fans, Dale? "Dale has felt the weight of the world on his shoulders for a long time, and that's a really hard thing to deal with," says Rick Hendrick, Earnhardt's car owner. Everybody wants a piece of him and, when things aren't going well, everybody has a theory as to why.

What people don't understand is that Dale is a sensitive guy. Really hard.""It's very difficult knowing that you're a disappointment to so many people," Earnhardt says. I really wondered how long I could keep my spot."So it begs the question: What triggered Earnhardt's transformation?

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They began dating and in 2011 she moved in with Earnhardt.

By nature, Earnhardt is introverted, reticent and a people pleaser -- character traits that don't serve him well on the track.

Pre-Amy, he rarely spent time with his crew chief, Steve Letarte, away from the track.

But she encouraged him to go to dinner with Letarte when the two were on the road, ask him questions about his family, and talk about things other than the car's setup.

Without it, he constantly questions himself at 180 mph and becomes a wreck in waiting.

Earnhardt, who for years second-guessed his every twist of the wheel, now is flush with it. "I feel like I'm as good as anyone out there."Twitter, in an odd twist, has helped fuel that confidence. 24, after winning the Daytona 500, he and Amy stepped into Earnhardt's brand new motor home, which was parked in stall 45 in the driver's lot.

"But the more I tried, I just couldn't seem to figure out what was going wrong. How did he morph from an also-ran into a driver who is now one of the three favorites -- along with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski -- to win the 2014 NASCAR championship? Earnhardt was building a new house on his gated property in rural North Carolina and one of the interior designers who worked on the mansion was Amy.

She knew virtually nothing about NASCAR, but she quickly cast a spell over the sport's most popular driver.

He's not going to be competing in a triathlon anytime soon like his teammate Jimmie Johnson, but now Earnhardt doesn't get fatigued at the end of the races, which during his woebegone, lost years caused him to make late-race mental miscues.