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August 15, 2007


Sure, he rakes in big buckaroos from his racing Ė and another truck load of íem from endorsements. And, along with Kasey Kahne, he can probably end up with any lassieís phone number in the United States.

But, you know, being Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesnít mean life has always been easy or, at times, very much fun.

Think for just a minute what it would really mean to be son of the Intimidator. Can you imagine being brought up under Dale Sr.ís stern eye and then being thrust suddenly into adulthood and international attention that horrible afternoon at Daytona in 2001?

A year ago here at Coastal 181, working with racing journalist Joyce Standridge, we published Kenny Schraderís autobiography, GOTTA RACE! We launched the book on a race night at Paducah (KY) Speedway, a track recently purchased jointly by Kenny and Junior. Both were present, along with Tony Stewart.

An enormous and wildly enthusiastic crowd wound around for what seemed a mile for the autograph sessions and the book signing. But everything was splashed with Red Nation colors. There were Budweiser and #8 tee shirts everywhere. Any time Junior moved anywhere Ė or someone thought he had, the wavy attention of the groupies swung immediately in his direction. It was a gusty wind on a hay field ripe for harvest.

Junior greeted fans for a good two hours. Following that, he retreated to privacy. Understandably, he wanted to watch the show at his new track. Amazingly, many folks who knew he had slipped away, chose not to even stay for the dirt late models. They had bought a ticket to shake Juniorís hand. When he was gone, they were out of there, too.

Itís hard to understand how anyone so smothered by often-unwanted attention so constantly and so long could be one of the guys. But it sure seems thatís just what Junior is.

As it turns out, a couple of folks along the way exposed Junior to a thing or two when Dale Sr. wasnít looking. One of them was that irrepressible Schrader. The first excerpt below is from GOTTA RACE! Kenny, amusing as ever, tells how he took Junior off for his first weekend with the boys. (Do you think it is possible that a couple of the girls could have been part of the mix, too?!?)

The second piece is a foreword to a new book we did with Joyce and Kenny Wallace this spring, INSIDE HERMANíS WORLD. Junior and Herman are buddies, and Junior insisted on writing the foreword himself.

Junior sounds like a pretty normal, thoughtful dude. Thatís neat.

GOTTA RACE! by Ken Schrader with Joyce Standridge

When the kid was 16 years old, he went on one of our weekend racing trips. From earlier stories you might have gotten the idea that there is a little bit of partying going on during these trips.

You would be wrong.

There is a lot of partying going on.

We use our heads and stay out of trouble. Mostly, we laugh, make other people laugh, and regress to pranks, practical jokes and tricks on each other. Itís the kind of thing that many people do as they are growing up but forget how to do by the time theyíve got mortgages and kids. But when youíre young and curious, itís a good idea to test the limits in the company of people who will take care of you.

At least thatís what I told myself Dale Senior must have thought when he allowed the kid to go with us. Daleís older son Kerry was already grown, and daughter Kelly was always sharp about the big, bad world out there. But Dale Jr. had led a pretty sheltered life--which is a good thing--and Senior figured that if he was going to experiment and try out things it was a whole lot better to let him go with me and my crowd than with a bunch of other 16-year-olds and wind up in jail or worse. It also couldnít look to Seniorís wife Teresa like it was his idea. She might have been the kidís stepmother but sheíd done a good job in her part of bringing him up. And, at that point, Teresa was just way too trusting, but we fixed that.

The Lost Weekend began when we went to Granite City, where we won; then on to Topeka; Moberly, Missouri; back to Topeka where we won again; and then back to St. Charles, Missouri. During that weekend, Junior got acquainted with his future sponsor, so when we got back to Topeka the second time--where we knew were going to meet up with Dale Sr. once more, we said, "Now, donít look at your daddy, donít tell him nothing about what we did, and whatever you do, donít breathe on him."

He must have breathed because later on I got cussed and yelled at, and I took it quietly because I had it coming. But after the rant went on long enough, I asked Senior, "I guess this means we canít take Kelly next year?"

I got a pretty strong suspicion about a couple of those "bump-and-runs" I received later that year.

But Senior knew I would keep the kid safe. You have to remember that a pretty similar thing had happened to me when Bud Hoppe got hold of me, and I turned out...

Maybe I better think of another comparison.


INSIDE HERMANíS WORLD Ė The Kenny Wallace Story

by Kenny Wallace with Joyce Standridge


By Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I met Kenny Wallace through my dadís and Rustyís friendship. We became instant friends because we both seemed to be in the same place at the time. Kenny, as I did, felt the need to prove himself. That was a daily chore with my father and me, and Kenny was no different with his brother, Rusty. Kenny often saw the frustration I had with my father, involving racing and other things. It was Kenny who could easily explain the situation to me. We might not have found a solution, but he understood.

Kenny spoke my language. I ask him for advice quite often, not because he is all-knowing or any crap like that. He just shoots straight. When you talk to Kenny, he is thinking, listening, and sincere with his response. Even more impressive is having him seek advice from me. Thatís the most sincere form of respect. Iíve spent my entire life being told what I want to hear, or told nothing at all. Kenny is the opposite of that. Rare, indeed.

Kenny's path through racing has been full of highs and lows. I remember watching him in the Cox Treated Lumber Pontiac back in his early Busch series days. He ran head-to-head with them all. He built up a good reputation, and I kept thinking he was one to keep an eye on.

His years in the Cup series, as you will read, were not what anyone would have expected. Mediocre equipment and hand-shake deals were often his only choice. There were some high spots, some good runs with good teams. Ultimately though, he will admit he never, or for that matter we never, got to see his real potential.

I could care less about his track record, myself. What he gave this sport isnít measurable with statistics and trophies. This sport can be shallow; it can be deceitful.

Kenny is a silver coin in a pile of coal, with a face full of expressions as easily read as the morning paper. Most notable is his distinct laughter. If Kenny is in the building, you know it.

He has been a great father and husband to his wonderful family. Heís a man with his priorities in order. This book is a great account of the person Kenny is, and Iím very proud to be a part of it.

Thanks, Kenny.

© 2007 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

.: Previous Tearoffs :.

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer


























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