Earnhardt becoming 'The Invigorator'
Earnhardt still has that winning feeling
By Bill Fleischman
(August 11, 2000)
On the race track, he can be "The Intimidator."
Off the track, Dale Earnhardt often is "The
Visiting Philadelphia on Thursday to promote the racing
tripleheader next month at Dover Downs International Speedway in Delaware, the seven-time
NASCAR Winston Cup champion was full of enthusiasm as he talked about his revived racing
career and his family.
Third in the Cup points standings with 14 races remaining,
Earnhardt, 49, feels he can win again this year and into the future. Another Earnhardt
title would break his tie with the retired Richard Petty and set a Winston Cup record.
"I played hurt in '98 and '99," Earnhardt said.
"(Last year) was miserable for me with the neck pain I had. (Now) I think we've
proved we are still competitive and still can win races. I'm healthier than I was (after)
fixing the nerve problem in my neck."
Trailing by 145 points, Earnhardt knows overtaking leader
Bobby Labonte will be difficult. But his experience and confidence in his Richard
Childress-owned team make him optimistic.
"I feel more confident about my team than I have in the
past," he said. "We've got guys on the team that really want to be there and
win. They're not there just because they're getting paid."
Also making this season enjoyable is the presence of Dale
Earnhardt Jr. in the Cup series. Dale Jr., 25, has already won two races in his rookie
When "Little E" and Earnhardt's older children,
Kerry, 30, and Kelly, 27, were younger, their father was away racing and building his
successful racing-related businesses.
Now, it's special for Earnhardt that he and Dale Jr. are
"We were talking the other day and (Dale Jr.) said, `I
can't believe I won the Winston,' " Earnhardt said. "He said, `I can remember
watching you win that race.' To talk about things like that with your kids is pretty
"All my kids have gotten closer. (When) they become
teenagers, they become their own person. As they become adults, they start doing things
that you do.
"I have a great 11-year-old (Taylor) that we've been
having a lot of great times with. But I know when she becomes 16, 17, she'll want to be
going with her friends and Dad might not get to go camping or fishing with her."
In June, Kerry won his first race ever in an Automobile
Racing Club of America event at Pocono Raceway. He'll try to qualify for the Winston Cup
race at Michigan on Aug. 20. Kelly is involved in the family's racing businesses.
When Earnhardt began his career as a teen on dirt tracks in
North Carolina, all he wanted to do was race. He never dreamed he would be worth millions.
His racing headquarters in Mooresville, N.C., near Charlotte, is a showplace.
Earnhardt and his third wife, Teresa, own several aircraft
and employ "four or five" full-time pilots.
"I still walk through (the showroom and race shop) and
look around and say, `Wow! I do all this?' " he said. "I'm very fortunate to
have what we have. It's a struggle to keep everybody happy. Instead of 12 guys working for
me, now I've got 180.
"People are important to me. It matters to me whether
their families are well. I get too involved in people's lives, but I also know the only
way to have a great team is to get involved.
"This is a great time in my life."
Smiling, he added, "I could still live out of the back
of a pickup truck if I had to, but I don't want to."
T h e E a r n h a r d t C o n n
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