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A Tribute to Dale Jr.

By | 2017-10-13T10:58:25+00:00 10.09.2017|Tags: , |53 Comments

As everyone who follows NASCAR knows, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to retire at the end of the current season. Needless to say, not having Dale Jr. on the track is going to be a tremendous loss for the sport. He leaves a tremendous legacy that will not be replaced.

Dale Jr. is one of a kind, and someone we can all be proud to be associated with. Most competitors aren’t necessarily humble by nature. His humility really set him apart in a lot of ways. He has a massive fanbase, a ton of sponsors, and made a ton of money. But he never bragged about what he had, or what he had accomplished. He’s never been that way. I’ve always really respected him for that.

Dale and I are great friends, and as many of you probably know, he gave me a chance to drive for him in 2007, and that opportunity changed my life.  I was very, very fortunate to drive for him, and to have his help building a career. I don’t know if I’d be where I am without him, but I’m glad I don’t have to find out.

So to honor my friend and everything he’s done for me, we’re going to be racing with the scheme below this weekend, an homage to my days driving the NAVY 88.

The paint scheme I’ll be using this weekend, an homage to the NAVY 88.

When I began my blog, my very first entry was about Dale Jr. and our history together. I’m republishing that blog in its entirety below because it truly captures how I feel about him.

But before we jump in, I want to say this: Dale, there’s not a doubt in my mind that you’ll excel at whatever it is you do next, but it’s not going to be the same out there without you. I’m going to miss racing against you, my friend. I’m going to miss seeing you out there in the 88 on Sundays.

I know I’m not alone.

DALE JR. IS A GOOD FRIEND AND I'LL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL TO HIM FOR GIVING ME MY BIG BREAK IN RACING.

DALE JR. IS A GOOD FRIEND AND I’LL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL TO HIM FOR GIVING ME MY BIG BREAK IN RACING.

 

EVERYONE ELSE

Back in 2006 and 2007, I was struggling to really get a foothold in the sport. I’d been through some pretty tough escapades with different race teams, and kind of bounced around. I didn’t have any connections. I didn’t have any possessions. I had no place to live. Sometimes, I stayed in hotel rooms that teams would rent for me for a couple months while I drove for them. Other times, I stayed with friends. Every team that I worked for was broke, and we never had the equipment we needed to run well.

I wasn’t really having much success.

As NASCAR fans know, the way they do the garages at the track, there are two sides: There’s the top 20, and then there’s everybody else. One day in early 2007, when I was racing for Keith Coleman Racing in the Nationwide Series, I was on the “everyone else” side. I’ll never forget looking over at a friend of mine and saying, “My goal is to get to the other side of the garage.”

Later that season, I was down at Atlanta. I ran a truck race, and I ran terrible. But when I got in the Nationwide car, we ran really, really well. There was a part of the race where we undoubtedly were one of the best cars. It just so happened that Dale, who had his car at the time with another driver, was watching the race from his suite at the top of the track.

And I passed his car.

His car had a lot of sponsorships, and a lot of resources dedicated to it. We were struggling very much. But on this particular day, it was quite the opposite. We had very little resources, and we were running well. And I think he was at kind of a breaking point, so he just put that in his mental bank.

MY KEITH COLEMAN RACING RIDE FOR 13 RACES IN 2007.

MY KEITH COLEMAN RACING RIDE FOR 13 RACES IN 2007.

The next week, we went to Bristol, Tennessee, and Dale, Jr. decided to run the race. He did it with his family team, DEI, but since he didn’t do it on a constant basis and they didn’t have any points, they had to park on the backside of the garage.

We wound up parking right next to each other. You have to remember, he was Dale Jr., and I was this struggling driver, so I didn’t want to bother him. I’m not that kind of guy — it just didn’t feel right. The funny thing was that he got out, walked over, and talked to me a little bit while we were practicing, which I thought was great. He was just down to earth. I was running really well again, and the first thing he said was that he liked the way I was driving. He said I reminded him, at least at that track, of how his dad used to drive it.

I thought that was really cool.

He also told me, “Man I’d like to see you get an opportunity. It would be great. I wish I knew of one.”  And then we kind of just moved on. It was one of those kind of “nice to meet you” situations.

A CHANCE

I struggled on for the next few months, and so did Dale and his team. By early June, the Nationwide team I was driving for — Keith Coleman Racing — went bankrupt.

I saw the writing on the wall once the season started, so I can’t say I was surprised. It was like one of those countdown clocks. I knew it was coming. I’m not going to say that it didn’t hurt, but when you’re prepared for something, it doesn’t hurt as much.

I began looking for another opportunity. Something. Anything.

I started spotting for someone, and I went to a truck race in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — just to watch because it’s close to where I live in Michigan, only a five or six-hour drive. There was this big wreck. One of the drivers lost his temper and had a tantrum, and he intentionally wrecked another driver. At that time, it was a big faux pas in racing. (It’s funny how times change. It seems like that happens now two or three times a year.) So NASCAR booted him out, and sat him down.

Like I said, I had been at that race just watching. The team driver for the guy who had gotten in trouble — he’d seen me drive before, and he had said the same thing to me that Dale had: “If there’s ever an opportunity, I’ll be there for you.” You sometimes think those words are lip service when you hear them. You never really know. Well, sure enough, there was an opportunity, and he made the most of his word. His team, Germain Racing, called and asked me to drive that truck while the other driver was suspended. That driver was only suspended for one week, so essentially, I had a one week trial.

That race was in Memphis, Tennessee, in June of 2007. It turned out to be one of those unique weekends where the stars align in a lot of different ways.

Dale’s Nationwide team, like I said, had been struggling. So he had a sit down with his driver, and told him, “Look, no more wrecking. I don’t care what you have to do, no more wrecking.” The same weekend I was driving in Memphis, Dale showed up in New Hampshire to watch his car run, and when he got there, they had wrecked at practice. He made the decision right then and there that he was going to fire his driver.

The responsibility, the pressure of being with a well-funded team — especially one that’s owned by the most popular guy in the sport — those things kind of hit you like a truck.

The night I ran the truck race for the suspended driver, it went well. I had qualified us on the pole. I was running really well and was winning the race until I was wrecked from behind late. As Dale later told it to me, he was actually watching the race on TV. He needed a driver for his car, he saw me, and he thought, “This is easy. Let’s put him in.”

He called me up the next day when I was flying back to Michigan. “I’d like you to drive my car,” he said. “Come on down here and check it out.” “

So I did.

I brought a suitcase and that was it. A suitcase on a plane. I landed in North Carolina, and there was a gentleman picking me up. His name was T.J. Majors, one of Dale’s best friends. He’d turn out to be my best friend. (He’s now Dale Jr.’s spotter, and he spotted for me in the Nationwide Series as well.) T.J. took me over to Dale Jr.’s guest house, and that was where I stayed for the next six months.

It was a surreal thing to go through. There were a lot of benefits, obviously, to driving the No. 88 for Dale, and having resources and opportunities that you’ve never had before to be competitive. But you start to realize quite quickly that there’s other things that come with it. The responsibility, the pressure of being with a well-funded team — especially one that’s owned by the most popular guy in the sport — those things kind of hit you like a truck. You think it’s just going to be easy. “Now we’ve got a fast car, and we’ll win.” But then other things pop up to make it difficult. The pressure was to run well, not wreck and to be a leader on a team that needed one — that’s really hard to take up overnight.

JOINING JR. MOTORSPORTS AND GETTING TO RUN THE 88 CHANGED EVERYTHING FOR ME.

JOINING JR. MOTORSPORTS AND GETTING TO RUN THE 88 CHANGED EVERYTHING FOR ME.

Things came together for me in Texas at the very end of 2007. The team had built a brand new car. We started at the back because of some kind of issue they had getting through tech, so I had to drive through the field, which was kind of one of those things that sticks out as being a huge accomplishment. I finished sixth. That was the first time we really ran well. I was very proud of that one. I think the team really rallied behind me.

BURN THE SHIPS

There’s a story about the explorer, Cortes, that comes to mind when I think of my early career. When Cortes sailed to the New World, he came with a bunch of ships. And when he landed, he burned them all so that nobody could go back. Nobody could talk about leaving. Nobody could think about leaving. They were committed to what they were doing whether they believed in it or not. They didn’t have a choice.

That’s kind of where I was at with racing back in 2007 before meeting Dale, I wouldn’t say I didn’t believe in myself. But I would say that I didn’t have a choice but to make it.

In my mind, there was no other option.

53 Comments

  1. Donna Musgrave October 9, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    I love how you pay respect to and when needed.
    Your blogs are amazing and I have said this before: I hope someday to will compile them in a book, something Scarlett will have for the future.

    • Winston el Gringo October 10, 2017 at 10:15 am - Reply

      Excellent story and great to see BK write some like that..

  2. Matthew Mayer October 9, 2017 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Beautiful, honest take. Thanks for letting us step inside your world for a minute Brad. Looking forward to many more.

  3. Dale October 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    Great story Brad. It gives me an even greater appreciation of you.

  4. GLENNYS HARRIS October 9, 2017 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Great story Brad. Thank you for sharing

  5. Dan DeNayer October 9, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    I remember the Memphis Race very well, several of us old DMP Racing guys were on PalTalk during the race and if I remember right Jr was in there at some point too and several of us were saying put Brad in that car. So glad everything has worked out.

  6. JoAnn Voletti October 9, 2017 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    #PureMichigan

  7. Jim Lawson October 9, 2017 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing! Great story! I watched that Memphis race and was SO mad when you got wrecked.

  8. JeffH October 9, 2017 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Brad, just enjoyed reading this blog. I’m a lifelong dirt track fan from California and was a die hard Jeff Gordon fan and naturally a Larson fan having watched him run the NorCal dirt tracks but…I’m also a NASCAR fan and you definitely caught my eye while running for Dale jr. Always enjoyed your confidence, your matter of fact style of personality and your talent behind the wheel. Whether you know it or not, you are a reputable “outspoken” spokesman for NASCAR, both in and out of the garage and true American patriot. I know you’ll never change all that. Good racin’ and good luck throughout the playoffs. Much respect from this Kyle Larson fan.

  9. Scott Casto October 9, 2017 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    This is extremely nice of you Brad honoring Dale. Thank you.

  10. patty October 9, 2017 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    You always make us feel like we are friends and the different views of the driver,s..Glad you get the chance to do this for Dale and how much you enjoyed your friendship with him.

    Excited to see it.

  11. Diane Crawford October 9, 2017 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    You are amazing. What a wonderful tribute you are paying to a great racer. Most people don’t realize that it really isn’t always about who win, but it’s the heart that of a person that wins. I knew some of this story, now I know all of it. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Dale or you, but what makes your the great person you are, is that you say what is on your mind, good or bad, there is no ands ifs or buts about where people stand with you. You met a kind person, not one that flaunts all he has but shares what he has. I am glad that you came together, and I am even happier that you have never forgotten, nor will you ever forget what Dale did for you. You will always be a champion in my book. You won with meeting a man who gave you a shot at doing something that you loved, and today, just a dew races left before Dales takes his last lap, he leaves behind memories the best one being you! God Bless you Brad. Get out there and take that championship this year..

  12. Billy Pat October 9, 2017 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Great post Brad. Hope to see you in victory lane with that car.

  13. Chris Null October 9, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    The main reason you’re my #1 driver. You’ve never forgotten where you came from and how hard it was to get there. Plus all the young drivers that you’ve helped along the way. You’re a good man Brad and I’m proud to call myself a fan

  14. Denise Longden October 9, 2017 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Very nice tribute to Dale Jr. and from the heart. Thanks for sharing Brad

  15. Keith Brown October 9, 2017 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Way cool Brad! There are so many NARCISSISTIC people in today’s society, it is refreshing to read and hear from a genuine honest person. From all you and your team do to honor our Military and our Veterans, to honest humble reads like this, A Real pleasure to support you and what you do. While I am also a Dale Jr fan, you can bet I also pull for The Miller Lite #2 team and for the Brad K Foundation Team! Thanks for you stand up honesty Brother!

  16. Janet R Krause October 9, 2017 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Love your blogs! #goingfor2

  17. barb mcgovern October 9, 2017 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you Brad for that beautiful blog about Dale Jr. You did an awesome job and I am sure Dale will appreciate it. I know I will miss him on the track but as long as he is involved in racing, we will still get to see him. Thanks again Brad.

  18. Penn Roy Edwards October 9, 2017 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, you are a class act. Hope you win the championship this year. Love your videos at race tracks in the campgrounds. Your optimism is contagious and genuine.

  19. Cheyenne October 9, 2017 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    This blog was amazing brad 🙂 gave me even more motivation to work towards my nursing degree 🙂

  20. Corey Beals October 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    Great Blog Brad. Dale Jr. got me into watching NASCAR, and you are the main reason for me to continue. #Canadianracefan

  21. Mandy Glenn October 9, 2017 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    Thank you for posting that. I remember when you started w JRM, and what a match that was! I will admit that I wasn’t a fan of yours back then,but a fan of JRM kinda bridged that gap. I became a fan when i met you on pit road in Texas. The officials were rushing you to qualify,and you told them to hold on bc you were signing for me. That did it. You had a fan in me after that. You went on to win The Cup that season. Keep up the great work.

  22. Janet October 9, 2017 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    Absolutely beautiful, Brad. I’m a long time reader of good books and I would definitely buy yours. I know you were born in Michigan but I’ll swear, you have the grace and charm of a good old Southern boy! (where I’m from that’s a HUGE compliment) God bless you!

  23. RowdyFan October 9, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I’m not always a fan. But I can appreciate how good your entries here are. Nice to see who you are as a person. Telecast does not always do you justice

  24. Theresa Shepherd October 9, 2017 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks Brad I loved watching Jr a very long time ago and his dad and many other great drivers and you are one also, this was so wonderful of you to write too bad some people had to say rotten things on the Facebook page about jr and him not being like his dad I never comment on this stuff but I did that one, only if you die I guess r u great to some, I am sorry the fella felt that way about Jr but he made me watch every race, and you did him proud, good luck to you

  25. Mark A. George October 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the insight into your humble beginnings as well as the true character of Dale Jr. You’ve gained a fan

  26. Nancy Johnson October 9, 2017 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Love this! I am and always be a JR fan. My son, Brian Johnson, I think, is your number one fan :). You and JR are so much alike in your love of the sport and appreciation of your fans. Thank you for being you!

  27. Duane October 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Great life story. I’ve always thought your driving style reminds me of Sr.
    Keep doing your thing and keeping it real. Now if we could get you and Team Penske back in a Dodge…

  28. Deanna Goldberg October 9, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    You know Brad, I’ve been rooting for you ever since you strapped in that 88. You are greatful and humble…but you don’t take any crap either. Dale Jr.. Has a tremendous eye for talent. Ya gotta love him cause he’s such a good guy. Well sir, so are you. Thanks for sharing your blog. God bless.

  29. Violet Marshall October 9, 2017 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    I like your post and blog. Dale has helped several drivers and that is the kind of person he is and that is why he is voted the most popular driver. He is very humble and down to earth and this comes thru when he is at the track or having interviews. I am glad you will be honoring Dale at the next race.

  30. Randy Smallwood October 9, 2017 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Awesome read Brad. My son Seth met you at Kentucky Speedway this year and asked if you would beat Kyle Busch for him. He’d love to have an opportunity like you had to do what you do. Thanks for being a good role model and for being a super nice guy that day.

  31. David October 9, 2017 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    Great story and you just got a new fan since junior is retiring

  32. Buddy October 9, 2017 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    I had heard about some of this prior to tonight. I Appreciate your Respect for the Sport, and your Honest Opinions, within the Sport!! Thank you for sharing for All to read!! Good Luck, and you Now have 1 more Fan!!!

  33. David October 9, 2017 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    Huge JR fan and m’y wife is from Michigan so she is a fan and converted my three kids To bk fans. After reading blog she said see isnt he cool! Really Nice piece Brad and good luck in chase we’ll be pulling for you. Go Bucks!

  34. Mary Carole DesChamps October 9, 2017 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    Reading this blog was amazing Brad, and I will now say I respect you! Thank you!!

  35. Michael Thomas October 9, 2017 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    I live in Daytona and have been going to the races for 41 years now. I have been a Dale Jr. Fan since day one and a Allison fan before that. I was fortunate enough to be friends with the Allison’s and get to see what a great family they are. This just brought back a lot of those memories and gave me a humble look into the kind of man you are. I pulled for you when you drove the 88 but I’m obviously a jr. fan on Sunday’s. I’ve been trying to figure out who my new driver will be and I think I just figured it out. Although I am happy for who ever wins knowing how hard you all work and most fans don’t even have a clue. My cousin John owned Motorsports designs who did most of the decals back in the day ( Jr may remember ) and I was lucky as heck to get garage and pit passes through him till he sold it. I would come during practice as well and the hard work and intensity was second to none back then. I can only imagine how insane it is know. I was lucky to meet jr several times and even remember when we were younger playing football in the paddock parking lot when we were kids. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch you in Daytona soon enough. Thanks so much for sharing all of this with us and I’m behind you for getting that 2nd championship!!!! ( gotta catch that dang 78 )

  36. Bill Jennings October 10, 2017 at 12:03 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing Brad. Its cool to hear the behind the scenes of you drivers life.
    I thinks really cool when you drive around on your golf cart looking for fans with your banners.
    You an Dale Jr are my drivers I root for every week. Gd luck for the rest of the year. Go get your 2nd championship!!

  37. Janet King October 10, 2017 at 12:20 am - Reply

    Was a wonderful blog about a true friend I’m sure god bless u and ur team I’m a big jr fan and 2 read ur blog was a job well done in my book give credit where it’s do and that u did god bless and be safe

  38. Sylvia October 10, 2017 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Just awesome Brad! Saw both you and Jr at interview together at Charlotte couple years ago. You both are class acts! Great trbute by you. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Jeff Hanson October 10, 2017 at 1:41 am - Reply

    Brad,
    What a wonderful blog and tribute to Dale Jr.
    Thanks for all you do!
    Jeff Hanson
    2015 NASCAR Foundation Betty Jane France Humanitarian
    http://www.JeffHansonArt.com

  40. david October 10, 2017 at 3:45 am - Reply

    man…i really liked watching you in the Navy car. i’m not just saying this, nor am i just shining your shoes here…but that very race i told my best friend / racing buddy that you reminded me of Sr…not necessarily in driving style, but in a bigger picture way — attitude and hard nosedness…..this was a great read. Thank you Brad….ps..i LOVED it that you got a little buzz on after your championship! one of my favorite NASCAR memories.

  41. Tim October 10, 2017 at 8:48 am - Reply

    Nice of you doing this for Dale Jr Brad thank you very much

  42. Sybil Scott October 10, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

    BRAD YOU REMAIN ONE WHOM I ADMIRE, ENJOY AND RESPECT. THANKS FIR ALL THAT YOU DO FOR RACING AND OTHERS. THANKS FOR SHARING AND OPENLY GIVING DALE JR HIS DUE. WISHING YOU WELL AS I ALWAYS DO.

  43. Brandon October 10, 2017 at 9:18 am - Reply

    I love reading your blogs, there aren’t enough! 😛 This is an awesome post. That’s why you’re my favorite driver. Go Get ’em at Dega on Sunday!
    #Miller2Crew #GoingFor2

  44. Danielle Coutu October 10, 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply

    This is beautiful !!

  45. Rick Wilson October 10, 2017 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Brad, I have always respected you and the way you drive and especially how you always are generous with your media time. You take the sunglasses off and look people in the eyes. This tribute to Dale truly shows what a class act you are. BRAVO BRAD!!

  46. Darlene Bartlett October 10, 2017 at 10:56 am - Reply

    The blog was fantastic, I’ve always liked even where u were bad. DALE JR. Is the people’s champ. Don’t need title for that. It probably don’t mean alot but you are right there at the top for my vote. You are one hell of a man to pay that kind of tribute to another great driver, that u put in your blog. GOOD LUCK IN THE FUTURE AND BRING IT HOME FOR THIS JR. NATION FAN.

  47. Andrea Lewis October 10, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Enjoyed reading your blog. Thank You for honoring Dale Jr.

  48. Jeannine Lukesic October 10, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Very nice Brad. You are a true friend and like you we will miss him on the track to. Looking forward to watching him do broadcasting for NBC. Love how he speaks his mind. Enjoy the smiles that he has all the time, I credit Amy for the smiles. I am so glad Dale found a special women and watching a complete new side of him with having a beautiful women by his side Thank you for your tribute. It’s really awesome.

  49. Annie Horner October 10, 2017 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Wow! Thanks for sharing Brad. That is a great story and I loved reading your blog on Dale Jr. Thank you for Honoring Dale this weekend.

  50. Teresa dampier October 10, 2017 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Such a touching honest tribute to Dale JR. Was trying desperately to find a driver after JR retires. I think I just found him. Thank you

  51. Sandi Keselowski Beach October 11, 2017 at 12:45 am - Reply

    I remember Uncle Ron taking you to local tracks & advice he gave you. So glad you made it to where you are. I agree that besides being a nice person, you have a talent for writing & talking!! I hope only the best for you & your beautifull family.

  52. Sheila Miller October 11, 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Brad, That was the best blog i have ever read. The respect that you have for Dale just made my heart smile and love u more as a driver. I will miss seeing Dale on the track also just as i miss his dad .
    I hope i see that car in victory lane…..That would be tha bomb dot com!!!!
    GOOD LUCK ….ILL BE ROOTIN FOR YA!!

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