Earnhardt News
2001 Season

One Dale a no-show, other plays a psychic
In his dreams? We'll see
By David Poole - The Charlotte Observer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (January 7, 2001)
A refreshing breeze of candor swept through the bowels of Joel Coliseum on Saturday.

Intertwined with predictable expressions of cautious optimism that precede any racing season, there were several moments of actual frankness during the interview portions of the T. Wayne Robertson Winston Cup Preview.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., for example, came right out and said he believes that he is going to win the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.

"I dreamed about it," Earnhardt Jr. said, saying the dream was about a month ago.

"I was out front all day," he said of the race in his sleep. "I remember it because I kept telling myself I won it in my second time in the race."

Earnhardt Jr. was asked where his father, seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, was in the dream.

"Dad wasn't there," Dale Jr. said.

The funny thing was, Dad wasn't there Saturday, either.

For the second straight year, Earnhardt skipped the preseason charity event at which, at least traditionally, every Winston Cup driver appears to sign autographs for fans who camp out as far as 24 hours in advance just to get spot in line to get their favorite driver's signature.

Earnhardt missed last year's event because he was still recovering from off-season neck surgery. This year, the reason given for his absence was that he was in Daytona completing a three-day test of the car he will drive in the Rolex 24 Hours race on Feb. 3-4.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., however, will be driving that same car in that same race. He also went to Daytona to test, but Dale Jr. made it to Winston-Salem by mid-afternoon.

Dale Jr. revealed, perhaps risking his father's ire, that Earnhardt may also have a medical excuse this time, too.

"He had a doctor's appointment the other day to take a piece of metal out of his head," Dale Jr. said.

Say what?

You mean all that "Ironhead" stuff all of these years wasn't just a nickname?

"It had been there since 1977 or something," Dale Jr. said. "He didn't even know it was there until last year when he had an MRI."

Dale Jr. said the shard of metal had apparently flown off a car his father was working on and lodged there. Since the elder Earnhardt was busy testing in Daytona, we couldn't check if Dale Jr. had dreamed that, too.

Mike Skinner, Earnhardt's teammate at Richard Childress Racing, showed up looking exceptionally dapper in suit, complete with an ice-blue shirt and a tan that was in midsummer form.

"I was on a boat in the Caribbean on my honeymoon," Skinner said of how his day began. "I took a tender over to the island where they sent the RCR plane to pick me up and I flew here for this."

Maybe that's the deal - Dale Jr. had his dad's plane and Skinner need the RCR jet, leaving Earnhardt stranded in central Florida.

Aside from the talk about the one guy who didn't show, the day's most honest answers came from a driver who admitted his team's future might be numbered in days.

Wally Dallenbach said that the No. 75 Fords owned by Darwin Oordt will go to Daytona for Ford's test sessions Monday and Tuesday, but that unless sponsorship comes through by midweek it's likely he'll look at opportunities outside of Winston Cup.

"I will stay here if I can get in a situation where I think I can be competitive, but I am not going to keep doing this the way we've been doing it," Dallenbach said. "I was led to believe we had a three-year deal with pretty good sponsorship and that last year was a building program. That's not exactly what took place.

"If this deal falls through, I will start looking at some other opportunities I have with teams that could win races tomorrow. When it comes down to it, that's what I am interested in doing. As much as I love NASCAR and Winston Cup racing, it's too long of a season to be miserable."

Dallenbach indicated that his most promising immediate option would lie in the Indy Racing series. He said he spurned offers from other car owners during the 2000 season because he had a three-year deal with the No. 75 team and thought that a sponsorship deal was lined up for 2001 and beyond.

Kenny Wallace, whose Eel River Racing team also currently has no sponsor, came to the preview with a silver frame with the words "Sponsorship Search Continues - Cross your fingers" on a piece of paper in the frame. Wallace said his team also expects to hear a decision from a potential sponsor by midweek.



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