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Jim Utter: The Earnhardt-Childress bond

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

There has been a lot of discussion so far this week at various stops on the Sprint NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway about the approaching 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death, on Feb. 18, 2001, in a last-lap wreck in the Daytona 500.

Throughout the stops we have met and spoken about a variety of issues with many of the drivers, crew chiefs and team executives who worked with Earnhardt. One conversation I found interesting was with Ty Norris, who is now with Michael Waltrip Racing. He is a former executive vice president at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Earnhardt was 49 years old when he died and our conversation turned to whether Earnhardt had ever talked of retirement.

"He had a good three (years) left in him as a driver for sure, maybe more," Norris said. "We hoped that he had a lot more years left because we knew he would be a miserable SOB outside of the race car.

"He'd come in the office and be bitching all the time and we'd be like, 'God almighty, I hope he races forever.' "

Norris said he asked Earnhardt "at least a hundred times" whether he wanted to drive a Cup series car from his own organization and Earnhardt always responded, "You guys can't afford me."

"Dale said he would never do that to Richard (Childress). He would never leave Richard Childress."

Earnhardt won six of his seven Cup championships while driving for Childress, who continues to be one of NASCAR's most successful car owners.

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