Earnhardt proudly wearing badge of family pride By Dave Rodman MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 13, 2000) In a world that includes multi-million dollar business deals, a drive for a record eighth NASCAR Winston Cup championship and maintaining an armada...
Earnhardt proudly wearing badge of family pride
By Dave Rodman
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 13, 2000) In a world that includes multi-million dollar business deals, a drive for a record eighth NASCAR Winston Cup championship and maintaining an armada of NASCAR race teams; Dale Earnhardt would be utterly remiss if he didn't take time to revel in his family.
And to his everlasting credit, the man who's been graced with every hard-handed nickname, from "Ironhead," to "One Tough Customer" to "The Intimidator;" can take time to appreciate what's perhaps the most important: "Dad."
He has watched his youngest son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., build an entrée into NASCAR racing that has him considered as potentially the sport's next superstar. His daughter, Kelley, has fashioned a successful career in the business world. And maybe he's most proud of oldest son Kerry, who has perhaps followed the closest in his dad's footsteps, building a family but more recently winning his career first race in a team assembled by his famous father.
It's hard to say which achievement has made him the proudest, and of course he has to include wife Teresa and daughter Taylor Nicole, who could be an heir to his business empire.
"We put a great opportunity in front of him (Dale Jr.)," Earnhardt said of what has seemed to be his 'chosen one.' "Tony (crew chief Eury) and the guys at DEI have built a great program from the Busch team right into the Cup team."
Earnhardt carefully plotted his younger son's career, from assuming the seat of the NASCAR Busch Series ride that Earnhardt himself once occupied, winning two championships there; to moving into the elite NASCAR Winston Cup Series, where he's startled every observer by winning three times in the first half of the campaign.
"The kid has done well," Earnhardt said. "He's taken the resources and applied his ability and came out of it well. I had expectations of him going out and winning the first race he drove. That's dad looking at it.
"It took Kerry a little longer. Winning at Pocono (June 17 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series race) was really big for him. Again, it took us putting the program together. That's our cars and team. He's going to go up to Michigan and test Dave Marcis' car for him, and we'll see what happens for Kerry down the road."
Earnhardt can be stretched and pushed and pulled and sometimes even to his own children seem unassailable. But there's no discounting what their achievements mean to him. Still in terms of all that he indicated his own fires to succeed still burn with inferno-like intensity.
"You're so proud of your kid -- that's a given," he said. "You're proud of your kid. You see that (win) happen, and you're proud of your kid, but when you win a race as a driver, that's pretty damn exciting."
Fatherhood aside, Earnhardt said that is still what is pushing him on a day to day basis.
"That's what I'm driven to do," he said. "That's what I get up in the morning to go do -- race. Yeah, I'm proud of him (Dale Jr.) winning. I'm excited about it. I'm excited about it for our team. I'll probably get more excited as I become a full-time owner.
"I reckon I've got the best of two worlds. I'm a winning driver, a winning car owner. Look around. There's not many people that's done that and done it the way I have."
But still, when he boils it all down, it distills into family for Earnhardt.
"Look at all my kids - I'm pretty proud of all of them," Earnhardt said. "All of them did the right thing in life. Kerry (30) raised his two kids and got married again and is doing well.
"Dale Jr. (25) is doing well with keeping his head on straight and going forward.
"Kelley (27) is getting ready to give me a granddaughter in another month. She's got a great job. She's making more money than I would pay her.
"Then Taylor Nicole (11-year-old daughter) is growing into running the show back home."
All in all, it gives Earnhardt a lot of reasons to persevere and plow ahead.
And he's got the family to keep him honest every step of the way.
"He's hot and cold, personality-wise," Dale Jr. said of his father, last weekend at New Hampshire. "Some days he's the coolest guy and then some days you can't stand to be around him."
But one thing that has never decreased is his pride and love for his family.