Friday, December 8, 2017

Jeff Gordon's milk toast to Dale Earnhardt

An excerpt from the book Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr.:

One of my favorite Earnhardt stories is Dale's supposed intimidation of Jeff Gordon and Gordon's reaction. Gordon won the first Brickyard 400, in 1994, and Earnhardt won the next year. Earnhardt got on TV and told a talk-show host that he was the first man to win the Brickyard 400. At one point, a rumor was circulating that Gordon was gay, and that apparently came out of the Earnhardt camp. Gordon, who was painfully young and youthful-looking then, took it well enough that the whole intimidation thing died out.

At a NASCAR banquet one year (probably 1996), Gordon drank a milk toast to Earnhardt, who responded with champagne. Gordon was certainly no milquetoast, and Earnhardt recognized that. The two actually became business partners, and in photos you can see Earnhardt's affection for Gordon. 

Earnhardt had 76 Cup victories. Who would later pass him for sixth place on the all-time victory list? Gordon, of course.

(NOTE: Gordon has since moved up to third all time with 92 victories, including his four wins in 2014.)


More entries from TARJ
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Talking to current Cup drivers

I was just looking at the Phoenix finishing lineup, and it occurred to me that winner Matt Kenseth is one of the few current NASCAR Cup drivers I've ever talked to.

I've been in a press room with several drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., but I never talked to any of them one-on-one.

I've interviewed Kenseth a few times on the phone; he did a wonderful job. I remember asking points leader Kevin Harvick a question or two a few years ago during a Media Tour stop at Richard Childress Racing.

I talked to Jimmie Johnson once when he was a rookie back in the day. The Phoenix driver I knew the best was Derrike Cope, who finished 32nd today. In 1990, we were at Charlotte, and I talked to Cope near his trailer. He'd lucked into a Daytona 500 win that year (Dale Earnhardt bust a tire on the last lap), so I asked about it. He had plenty to say.

Cope said that, one day, he was going to whip their butts and show them what he could do. I didn't need to run his interview that weekend, so I saved him until the next week, Pocono. Naturally, he won running away, whipping their butts, and I looked good.

Those were the only two wins of his Cup career (so far).

Also, a bunch of us, including Derrike, once had dinner together at Darlington. The waitress was named Angel. Derrike was, and I suspect still is, a good guy.

• Good timing for Derrike Cope


More entries from TARJ
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)