Geoff’s Journal: My favorite memories of Dale Earnhardt


By Geoff Bodine

April 29, 2018


The late Dale Earnhardt would have turned 67 years old today.


I remember when we were both in our late 20s getting our starts in NASCAR.


ROOKIE SEASON

When I was first getting into NASCAR’s top series, I was originally going to compete for Rookie-of-the-Year in 1979 against the likes of Dale and Harry Gant.


We were in Daytona doing some photos and the others had heard of my racing in modifieds.


I was told by the other rookies that they thought I was going to kick their butt, and that was really cool.


Ultimately, my ride did not pan out and I ran for Rookie-of-the-Year for real in 1982. Yet, that was neat to have Dale and Harry feel that way. Maybe they weren’t real, but they seemed to be.


Once I made it to Cup full-time in 1982, Dale and I were buddies. We went to dinner several times and our families spent time together. Everything started out really well.


Eventually, when you get in a competitive situation, you can expect trouble. No one likes to lose, and once you beat somebody, it takes a little edge off, they don’t like you as much.


The friendship was fun while it lasted.


LOCAL RACING

During off-weeks back then, it was common to see drivers go to local tracks and race local driver’s rides.


Dale and I used to compete in the same races, and sometimes it got rough, but it was fun to do those things with him.


It formed a comradery, but once we put the helmets on, that went away. We both wanted to win.


One weekend when we were racing at Star Speedway in New Hampshire, one of the local racers spun him out and put him in the wall. They also wrecked me.


That had to be a notch in their belt, but we decided that night we weren’t going to do that anymore, because every time we went somewhere, there seemed to be a big bullseye on us and the local guys wanted to take us out just to say they did.


That was one of the few times we agreed on something.


THE JOKER

Dale was the jokester. He always tried to hug, squeeze and hurt you.


Dale was known for pulling pranks on everyone.


I haven’t forgotten about the time he handcuffed me to the railing at a hotel in Louisville during an off-weekend when we were doing some local racing. I didn’t enjoy that, but he did.


DALE’S LEGACY

People who really knew him, know how good of a guy he was.


He did things for people not many know about, whether it was loaning his airplane to somebody who needed help or if someone was in a bad situation.


The way a person acts away from their occupation or career is more important than the way they act during their career.


He was a really great guy.


He had a such a strong influence in racing, with fans and NASCAR. There’s no question, he was a big a part of the popularity of NASCAR’s growth.


DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.


IMAGES
Julian Gonzales/Allsport
RacingOne/Getty Images
Dante Ricci/TRE