#MyDalejrStory (Story of how “NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver” Became My Favorite Driver) #Nationwide 88

Posted: July 15, 2015 in Articles
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#MyDaleStory #Nationwide 88

Growing up as a little black kid back in Lufkin, Texas I remember seeing racing on our little black and white television.  
It is so funny to me now because I thought that Buddy Baker and so many of those guys were black because of the dirt and soot that was on their face that made them look black after the race when combined with the effect of no color on the TV.
I really didn’t follow racing anymore after that until one night while stationed in the Army in the Republic of Korea my best friend and I who were broke and couldn’t go out to party as we did on most weekends had to stay in our barracks.
On nights like those I usually watched football since it came on about 0200 in the morning (that’s 2 O’clock for you civilians) but I went over to my buddy Matt’s room across the hall to see what he was doing because the game was boring and soon as I entered the room I heard “VROOM, VROOM” and there he was watching racing.
I recall clearly that it was the Bristol race and it was getting down to the last laps and Matt was fixated on the race and I was giving him a hard time for watching something that was so boring.  
What happened next would change my life forever….Dale Earnhardt wrecked Terry Labonte!!!!
I asked Matt “who is that dude in the black 3 car”? And Matt proudly smiled and said “that’s my boy Dale Earnhardt”.
I then sat down at watched the mayhem as they interviewed the drivers who were fighting mad at “Earnhardt wrecking another one” and watching the crowd yell “boooo!!!”….I was enthralled.
It was then that Dale was interviewed and with that sheepish, mustache-filled grin he said “I didn’t mean to wreck him..I just meant to rattle his cage a little bit”.
I turned to Matt and said “so that’s Dale Earnhardt”? (even non-NASCAR fans knew of him) “Dang, that dude’s got a little “brotha” attitude in him!!!
From then on I started watching the races with Matt and he taught me the nuances of the sport as well as who the drivers were, what the teams meant, about the sponsors, and about the colorful history. But I must admit…I really only wanted to know more at that time about Earnhardt.
I started following the sport and fell in love with it and everything Earnhardt which led me to start following Dale Jr. Like far too many people my perception of Dale Jr. was that he was a “spoiled rich kid” not knowing until later that his dad didn’t hand him a darn thing and in fact made it very hard for him so that when/if he found success in racing that it would be because of his own merits and not because of his “dad”.
I still didn’t like Dale Jr. that much until he won his second championship but even then it was sort of out of loyalty to Dale Sr. but things would change when my beloved Dale Sr. would die a while later in turn 4 at Daytona.
I recall that day he died how I went from jubilation of watching a great race where Dale selflessly helped Mikey Waltrip win the race with Dale Jr. coming in second for a DEI one-two finish to the heartbreak that every race fan felt in the next few minutes as our hero went on to be with God to race on the high banks of Heaven.
As time passed I really watched Dale Jr. as he was now forced to grow as a man to save DEI and prove that he indeed could win races without his father looking over his shoulder and as he did so my once “like” for him turned into “love” for him as I watched him grown into his own man rising much like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes despite the doubts of many in the racing world.
I’m proud to say that I am a proud member of the “Jr. Nation” and I’m proud to say that he’s my driver and as my wife and daughters will attest to “ain’t nothing like a 290lb black dude running crazy through the house” as I often do when Jr. wins!
That’s my Jr. Story!
Ron “Big Black” Garrett

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