Hall of Fame's first class: Dale Earnhardt
Wednesday, Oct. 07, 2009
In only his second full season, 1980, Dale Earnhardt earned his first title.
Shares the record for most Sprint Cup Series championships, at seven, with Richard Petty.
In only his second full season, 1980, Earnhardt earned his first title. He won consecutive titles on three separate occasions (1986-87, 90-91 and 93-94). Earnhardts 76 victories rank seventh all-time.
Tom Higgins on 'The Intimidator'
Motorsports writer and historian Tom Higgins shares a standout memory of each of the 10 nominees we're featuring as we count down to the NASCAR Hall of Fame vote and announcement.
Bristol, Tenn. March 31, 1979
Jake Elder, a colorful crew chief, was holding court with reporters at Bristol International Raceway.
Elder turned to his rookie driver, sitting alongside on the pit wall. Stick with me kid, and well both be wearing diamonds as big as horse turds.
The reporters chuckled in doubt.
They shouldnt have.
The rookie driver, then 28, won the Southeastern 500 the next day. It was no April Fools Day development.
The newcomers name: Dale Earnhardt.
Elder, nicknamed Suitcase because he changed jobs so often, left Earnhardts team midway through the 1980 season. But Earnhardt backed up Elders foresight by winning that seasons Winston Cup championship.
And he kept on living up to the prediction through succeeding seasons, gaining admiration from rivals for his courage, but stirring anger with an aggressive driving style.
Said the veteran driver Cale Yarborough, You couldnt castrate Dale Earnhardt with a chainsaw.
And you cant imagine the number of big diamonds he could have bought.