Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All Eyes on Earnhardt at Daytona 500 Once Again

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All Eyes on Earnhardt at Daytona 500 Once Again

Article excerpt

Living life on the ragged edge, as Dale Earnhardt does, would leave most 45-year-old men out of breath and scrambling for heart medication.

"I think I'm at my best when the pressure's on," he says.

His fans agree. When the black GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, No. 3, rolls onto any race track in America, everyone gets ready for some action. Don Hawk, a friend and business advisor to Earnhardt, said The Intimidator never cheats the fans. "He may not win the race, but they know he's going to give them a show," Hawk said. "And even if you're not an Earnhardt fan, sometimes he'll make you suck in your breath and say, `Man alive, I cannot believe what he just did.' " The most menacing sight in racing has to be seeing that black car in your rear-view mirror and knowing the driver will do almost anything to get by you. It's like driving a Volkswagen bug and having an 18-wheeler on your exhaust. Get over, or get crushed. Earnhardt, like others in the ever-growing sport of Winston Cup racing, has become incredibly wealthy. He has career earnings of $26 million. No driver in the history of auto racing - worldwide - has won that much. He also has made a fortune selling Dale Earnhardt souvenirs. He has a private jet, two huge boats, a Chevrolet dealership, a 400-acre farm on which he raises cattle, quarter horses and chickens. He fields a truck in the NASCAR Craftsman Series for Ron Hornaday and a car in the Busch Grand National Series for driver Steve Park, and his three oldest children - Kerry, Kelley and Dale Jr. - also race on short tracks in cars owned and backed by their father. Earnhardt and his third wife, Teresa, have an 8-year-old daughter, Taylor. Dale says he is "as happy as I've ever been" in his personal life. He never slows - on or off the track. "I think you work better in debt or when you're trying to achieve something," he said. "If you don't go out to achieve things, you'll never succeed. Me, I'm ambitious every morning I wake up." He said he gets up at 5 most mornings. He takes care of business at his farm and his auto dealership, and checks on his racing teams - all before noon. Then he heads to whatever speedway is playing host to the Winston Cup cars that weekend. Earnhardt was the 1979 Winston Cup rookie of the year. Since then, he has won seven championships and 63 Cup races. He goes into Sunday's Daytona 500 knowing that all eyes are on him once again at Daytona International Speedway. Last year, he was on cruise control, and appeared headed to another Winston Cup championship - which would have given him one more than Richard Petty. A violent crash in the DieHard 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway stopped his joy ride. Earnhardt won the pole for the Daytona 500 last February, and finished second behind Dale Jarrett in the season opener. …

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