- Did you mean:
Dale Earnhardt -Wrangler deal risky, but paid off big for Richard Childress
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Richard Childress went all in. He wagered everything -- his yesterday, his today and his tomorrow. He bet it on a late-season deal with a driver who was a maverick, and he bet it on nothing more than a sliver of a sponsorship. And at the end of that 1981 season, less than a dozen races after the relationships began, the driver and the sponsor departed. The story could have ended there. Driver gone, sponsor gone and Childress, who had tried to scratch out a living as a racer before going the ownership route, hopelessly broke and perhaps finished with NASCAR. But it didn't. Two years later, both Dale Earnhardt and Wrangler reunited with Childress. The union produced a pair of championships and a slew of wins, and set Childress and Earnhardt on a path of success rarely seen in NASCAR. "I borrowed everything I could on my home; I sold everything I had that I thought I could sell just to run Dale those 10 races," Childress said Wednesday during a celebration at Wrangler's headquarters here in Greensboro. "At the end of it, I was just in debt. I had borrowed money from some folks and everything just to run those 10 races." It's fitting that the celebration of the region's textile community, dubbed Jeansboro Day, took place this week, just as NASCAR's premier series prepares to return to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Because it was at Talladega in the summer of '81 that all the pieces first came together that would unite Childress, Earnhardt and Wrangler. "I had already talked to Dale at the track earlier that day," Childress said, "and put our deal together." Later, at the long-gone Anniston Inn just east of the track, he met with Phil Holmer of Goodyear, Wrangler officials and Joe Whitlock, who handled Earnhardt's public relations at the time. Earnhardt had won the 1980 title while driving for team owner Rod Osterlund, but when the team was sold mid-season to J.D. Stacy in '81, the driver wanted out. A deal to run the final 11 races of the season was struck, with Childress and Wrangler. By year's end, Earnhardt had managed six top-10 finishes, but the strong runs were offset by mechanical issues and parts breakage. "We ran good, but I knew we didn't have what it took to run him for a championship," Childress said. Dale Earnhardt talks with Richard Childress after the two reunited in 1984. Dale Earnhardt Jr . remembers that season, in particular his father's second start with Childress. "I remember the race at Bristol where you had the accident on pit road that second race that dad drove for you in 1981," Earnhardt Jr. said Wednesday. "I was there. I know that because one of my most favorite photos of me and my father, they basically had these two tires stacked on top of each other and I'm standing in the wheel to get a better perspective to watch the race. I must have been 7 years old. "But Dad is standing with me and we're both watching the rest of the race; the car is in the background too damaged to continue. But my favorite photo of me and my father actually happened that day at Bristol." At the suggestion of Childress, Earnhardt left at the end of the year, taking the Wrangler funding with him to sign with veteran team owner Bud Moore. Childress hired driver Ricky Rudd, and a late deal put Piedmont Airlines on the car and helped stabilize the organization. Wrangler officials, knowing his dire financial situation, had kicked in an extra $50,000 at year's end to help Childress keep his operation upright. "That really helped me going into the following year," Childress said. What would have he done without it? "It's hard to say," he said. "I never look back. I just look ahead and that was one of those deals that helped me look ahead. I don't know where we would have been without it." Before the '84 season began, Childress said Wrangler officials wanted to reunite, with Earnhardt once again driving the No. 3 Chevrolet. The Earnhardt /Moore union had produced just three wins over the course of two years. Childress was more than willing to agree. "I'll never forget Bud told me at Riverside, 'Boy, that boy will break you,'" Childress recalled Moore telling him of Earnhardt . Instead, the pair flourished. A Legacy Continues In 2010, Earnhardt brought the brand back to the race track for a one-off race, winning the XFINITY Series event that summer at Daytona International Speedway . The car, prepared by his own JR Motorsports group, sported the No. 3 and a paint scheme similar to his father's. He continues to serve as a spokesperson for the company, and says it is "amazing" that the relationship has endured for so long. "My father first had Wrangler on the side of his car at the end of the 1980 season; he won the championship with Wrangler on the quarter panel of his car racing at Ontario in 1980 for the final race of the season," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Then he went into 1981 with Wrangler as a full-time sponsor. And we're still working together today. "I'm very proud of that relationship, very proud that it spanned so many years. Typically, relationships just don't last that long. So it says a lot about Wrangler and what they get out of the sport itself; their connection to race fans and the legacy of the Earnhardt family and Richard, everything that Richard and Dad did together."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville
RELATED: Talladega schedule " Junior injury timeline Dale Earnhardt Jr . will join NBC's broadcast team for parts of the network's coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway , NBC announced Wednesday on "NASCAR America." Junior, who has not raced since July as he recovers from a concussion, will reunite with his former crew chief Steve Letarte and work alongside race announcer Rick Allen and fellow analyst Jeff Burton . Sunday will mark Earnhardt's first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup broadcasting assignment. "I'm excited to see these races from a different vantage point and hopefully offer some insight to the viewers," Earnhardt Jr. said in an NBC release. "I thoroughly enjoyed my opportunity to broadcast the XFINITY race at Michigan earlier this year, so I expect getting to spend time in the booth with the NBC team to be just as fun." NBCSN presents the second elimination race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from Talladega on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Next weekend, NBCSN presents the first race in the playoff Round of 8 from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. ET. "With five races left in the Sprint Cup playoffs, we are thrilled to welcome Dale Earnhardt Jr . into our broadcast booth as we present two of the most unpredictable and exciting races in the Chase," said Jeff Behnke, VP of NASCAR Production for the NBC Sports Group. " Dale is incredibly respected and the viewers and fans will be treated to his perspective on two very different race tracks." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Earnhardt -Talladega streak to continue Sunday
The streak lives on -- an Earnhardt will drive at Talladega. BK Racing announced Monday that Jeffrey Earnhardt will drive the No. 83 Starter Toyota Camry at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. Earnhardt will be one of three BK Racing cars on track for the Alabama 500 as he joins teammates David Ragan and Matt DiBenedetto . It extends one of the sport's great streaks that was in serious jeopardy. An Earnhardt has started every race at Talladega since 1980, with Dale Earnhardt and son Dale Earnhardt Jr . collecting 16 total wins at the 2.66-mile track during their respective careers (10 for Earnhardt , six for Earnhardt Jr.) Earnhardt Jr. will not drive in Sunday's race as he continues to recover from the effects of a concussion suffered earlier this season. Enter Jeffrey Earnhardt , Earnhardt's grandson and Earnhardt Jr.'s nephew. By putting him in the No. 83, BK Racing ensured Earnhardt will start in the 40-car field (43 cars are on the entry list) because the No. 83 team has a Charter. "I'm really excited to drive the No. 83 Starter Toyota Camry for the fall race at Talladega," Earnhardt said in a team release. "It's my first Cup Series race at Talladega, my first race with BK Racing , the first time anyone from our family competes in a Toyota and it's the 25th anniversary of my grandfather's victory at Talladega. Having this opportunity with an iconic American partner like Starter is an incredible honor. I can't remember being so pumped up for a race and sincerely appreciate our friends at Starter for their support." Doug Richert, who was crew chief for Earnhardt Sr. during the 'Intimidator's' first title in 1980, will serve as Jeffrey Earnhardt 's crew chief. "I'm looking forward to once again returning to the track as crew chief with an Earnhardt behind the wheel," Richert said. "The Earnhardt family has played such an important part in my racing career; starting in 1978 with Dale Sr. and then winning a championship with him in 1980, it's very cool to work with the fourth generation of the family." The Earnhardt streak since 1980 totals 73 races. Sunday's race will be 74 in a row.
Tony Stewart fills in for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr . again found himself in need of a substitute driver. Tony Stewart was there to answer the call. Earnhardt Jr. was at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for a Dale Jr. Foundation charity ride-along event. The problem: Earnhardt Jr. has not been cleared to drive by his doctors as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. The event raises "quite a bit of money," Junior said in a video posted to Twitter. Never fear, 'Smoke' is here. The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion volunteered to fill the seat so Tuesday's event could go off without a hitch. Earnhardt Jr. posted the thank-you video below, calling Stewart a "good dude" for filling in. Thanks @TonyStewart pic.twitter.com/yhcFaP5fOg — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) October 5, 2016 What friends do for friends pic.twitter.com/jIGLS6LdU9 — Eddie Jarvis (@Eddiejgo14) October 5, 2016 &lt;/p&gt;
Bowman 'Dale Earnhardt Jr. saved my career'
Alex Bowman speaks on the opportunity that Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave him and how his support saved and helped develop his career in NASCAR.
Purple punch: Earnhardt Jr.'s classic North Wilkesboro memory
RELATED: North Wilkesboro, 20 years later Dale Earnhardt Jr . didn't begin his career in NASCAR's premier series until 1999, three years after the series had moved on from North Wilkesboro Speedway. But Earnhardt Jr., a student of NASCAR history, did compete at the .625-mile track, racing a Late Model entry on at least a couple of occasions. "I ran the Sun Drop (sponsored) car there," Earnhardt Jr. recalled. "Actually, I think we went there twice. With the Sun Drop car I remember qualifying 19th or something; I don't remember how many cars were there but I'm sure they sent a few home so it was cool to make the race." The contentment was short-lived. According to Earnhardt , he "T-boned a guy and had to run the rest of the race with no fenders or hood or anything. So it wasn't a whole lot of fun." The following year, all three Earnhardt siblings -- Earnhardt Jr., older brother Kerry and older sister Kelley -- made the trek to the legendary track to compete in the Late Model race. None of the three managed to qualify, a situation that didn't sit well with their father and team owner, Dale Earnhardt . "Dad had assumed that I would make the race because we'd been running so good at Myrtle Beach," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He said, 'You guys run this race' and there was a race at Myrtle Beach that night; he was going to fly us in his King Air to the beach so we could compete that night and stay in the track points (battle)." But when Dale Jr. failed to make the show, "He told me and my guys to screw off, that we had to drive the damn van all the way from North Wilkesboro to Myrtle Beach to try to make the race. "We had to hustle; we barely made it. He was pissed off that all three cars missed the race." MORE: How end of "tire war" started at track Failing to qualify and having to drive all day to that night's race wasn't the only issue. An incident with "questionable" fuel also took place, but Earnhardt Jr. laughs when he recounts the incident today. "I had a jug of trick fuel for my car," he said. "It was a purple gas jug. We kept it in that purple gas jug so we wouldn't mix it up with the other fuel. It was probably Elf fuel or something just to give my car a little more speed. Or it might have had some propylene oxide in there or something. "One of Kerry or Kelley's guys walked over to get some gas for their car and grabbed the purple jug and a fight ensued between their crew and my crew; it sort of let the cat out of the bag that whatever was in that jug was pretty special. That was kind of comical." Something to laugh about, no doubt, on the long drive from the hills of North Wilkesboro to the sands of Myrtle Beach. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr. gearing up for next season
Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Dirty Mo Radio to give an update on his health and also talked about how he's ready to prepare for next season.
Dale Jr.: Rooting for Jimmie to get seventh title, tie father
RELATED: Recap of Jimmie's wins " Recap all of Dale Sr.'s wins Jimmie Johnson just got the biggest endorsement in NASCAR: from Dale Earnhardt Jr . "To be honest, yes I am rooting for Jimmie to get this championship," Junior said in "The Dale Jr. Download" posted on Dirty Mo Radio Monday afternoon, which coincidentally was Earnhardt's 42nd birthday. "I believe he does deserve it after everything he has put into the sport." A seventh championship for Johnson, a Hendrick Motorsports teammate of Junior, would tie the No. 48 driver with Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most championships ever won by a driver. "I'm real excited for Jimmie," Junior said. "He's chasing that seventh championship to put him up there with Richard and my father. He wants that so badly. We've had a few conversations about that, and I know how much that would mean to him. "He is one of the greatest drivers this sport has seen. Obviously to win five championships in a row is undeniable, and the arguments are undeniable that he is one of the greatest. He ranks right up there with the old man and anyone else you want to bring into that conversation." In February, Johnson got his 76th career premier series race victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway , tying Dale Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time wins list. Junior, who finished second to his teammate that day said, "Knowing Jimmie Johnson and the way he operates, Dad would have loved Jimmie. How can you not like Jimmie? He's just a good guy who never stepped over the line with anything he's ever said or anything he's ever did." Johnson got his 77th win, passing Earnhardt's record, three weeks later at Fontana. He now has three wins on the season and is locked into the Round of 8 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with his Charlotte victory. For this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Junior predicts that the No. 24 of Chase Elliott , another Hendrick teammate, will make it to the Round of 8 as well despite a rough day at Charlotte. He led 103 laps but finished 33rd after winding up in a wreck just after a Lap 259 restart with fellow Chase driver Austin Dillon and several others. All the Hendrick cars looked good at Charlotte Motor Speedway , Junior said. The No. 88 was piloted by Alex Bowman , who wrecked early and finished 39th in the Bank of America 500 . Earnhardt said he plans to attend all of the remaining 2016 Sprint Cup races except Phoenix. "I knew and said many times during the summer that I knew when the Chase came around we would rebound and be strong," Junior said in the podcast. "And we have. It makes me excited to get back in the car when I do." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Despite veteran status, Dale Jr.'s passion for sport remains
Dale Earnhardt Jr . turned 42 on Monday, marking another trip around the sun for the Hendrick Motorsports star. Adding another candle to the cake may solidify his place among the so-called elder statesmen in the NASCAR garage, but it hasn't made him feel any older or any less passionate about stock car racing. Earnhardt Jr., sidelined since July through the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with a concussion, cited several fellow competitors who have had success into their 40s -- Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle , in particular -- to illustrate that there's no firm timetable for retirement. "I don't know if age is really a factor. It's really about the passion you have for it, if you can get out of bed and get up on the wheel and want to do it," Earnhardt said Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway 's announcement for its offseason lighting project. "When you get up and you don't want it as much as the next guy, then you've got to start thinking about whether you belong there, whether the team deserves that kind of commitment. MORE: Martinsville to add lights for 2017 "The team's going to go in there and work their guts out; they need a driver with the same attitude. And any time you feel like you just don't have that attitude, you need to start thinking about letting someone else get in there and giving the team an opportunity." Earnhardt said he was unsure why some drivers' careers fade, chalking it up to several different factors: "The cars, the team, the organization, maybe." The common thread -- regardless of age, he said -- was the desire to compete at a high level, especially with a young crop of teens and 20-somethings knocking down the door to NASCAR's national series. "It came real easy when you're young, but the older you get, it's a little bit harder," Earnhardt said of staying motivated. "And them young guys, man, they're coming. They're coming into the sport wide-open and it's getting harder and harder to keep up with 'em. But I feel good, I feel young. I feel younger than my years, but as long as you have the passion and commitment to do what you have to do, not just on Sunday and Friday and Saturday, but during the week. "There's a lot of commitments, not only with sponsors, but you've got meetings and you've got to be at the shop and you've got to make yourself available and accountable with the team. There's just so much that goes into being successful, and if you don't have the passion for that, then you probably don't need to be wasting anybody's time. I think that's probably what happens is you sort of lose that want-to, to be able to get up and go do it."
Earnhardt Jr. returns to Dover
NASCAR.com's Matthew Dillner catches up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. prior to practice at Dover International Speedway.