With A cause / Hard-living Myers wants others to avoid his mistakes
By Rea McLeroy, Times-Dispatch Staff Writier
(Danny Myers is Dale Earnhardt's gas man.)
(Aug. 11, 1999)
For years, Danny "Chocolate" Myers
lived the fast life. Partying with his friends, running with the tough crowd, the NASCAR
crew member enjoyed the high life.
Now, with gray sprouting in his hair and crinkles in the
corners of his eyes, Myers laughs about those days. He was a different man then.
Myers grew up in racing. His father was killed at Darlington
Raceway in 1957, his uncle died leading the race a year later.
When he was a teen-ager, Myers began working with teams. He
hooked up with Richard Childress and the two became close friends.
"Childress and I go back a long ways, to Bowman-Gray
Stadium [in Winston-Salem]," Myers said. "It's always been a part of my life
before I even really knew it."
Still, in the late '70s he chose not to stay with racing, to
venture into other areas. It simply wasn't enough.
"I got away from it for a while, then I was watching it
on TV one night and saw a bunch of my old friends on TV and I said, 'You know, that's what
I really want to do.' ".
That was 1982. Myers called Childress and in 1983 returned to
racing as Dale Earnhardt's gas man. The team had fun, enjoyed its success. That was in the
days when Earnhardt was The Man. That was before NASCAR became America's passion, before
crews and drivers became celebrities. In those days, Myers didn't worry much about being a
"I had a pretty bad reputation for a while, being a
tough guy and a biker dude and all that, and I probably was all those things," he
said. "I look back and I'm like, 'Geez, I've changed my life so much in the last
seven years, if I'd been like that to start with, there's no telling where I would be
Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, Myers slows down as he dwells
on what might have been. At age 50, and talking about his future in racing in terms of
months instead of years, he wonders just what life could have been like. It's a regret he
doesn't want others to experience.
These days, when he's not fighting the heat in the garage or
practicing pit stops at the shop, Myers is talking to kids. He goes to autograph sessions,
speaks at outreach sites and to youth groups. He wants them to learn the lesson without
"That's what I try to tell the kids, you just have a
short time in life to do those things, so don't look to be like me and look back over my
life and wonder how much time I wasted trying to be 'bad,' " he said.
That reputation that he once carried without thought now
haunts him. He hasn't had a drink in seven years, spends his time being a good father to
Alexi and a good husband to Caron. They travel with him to speaking engagements and races.
His priorities have shifted.
Still, despite all he has done to change his lifestyle, Myers
is confronted with his past reputation.
"It really hurts today. Like, I was in Charlotte and I
spoke at the outreach trailer out there and I got up to give a testimony and the next day,
a couple of guys said, 'Hey man, I heard you were out last night drinking and raising [a
ruckus],' " Myers said, shaking his head sadly.
He is resigned to those moments, but doesn't dwell on them.
These days, his attention is focused on the future of others. Being a role model, signing
autographs, is something Myers views as an honor. As he talks to kids, works to turn young
lives around, Myers never forgets what he is trying to give others -- even when it starts
with just an autograph.
"Bobby Allison told me a long time ago that every
autograph is a compliment," he said. "Even when you're tired and disgusted and
wore out, if somebody asks you, you've just got to sit and think if it weren't for these
people I wouldn't be doing this. I feel very blessed."