Jarrett, Earnhardt bond over beers

Well, Dale Jarrett might be retiring to the motorhome lot a little bit early tonight, now that qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series' Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway has been rained out.

But Jarrett, who is making his final career Cup start on Sunday, didn't always like to head home early.

Every once in a while we get a much-needed glimpse at the personality of the people who make the NASCAR machine go. With Jarrett on his way to the television booth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought Friday was the right time to share his favorte Jarrett story.

And the story had nothing to do with Jarrett's 1999 Cup title, or his multiple Daytona 500 victories -- as admirable as all of those accomplishments are. Nope, Earnhardt remembered a party, one that came after he won the Pepsi 400 at the track that claimed his father's life just 5 months prior back in 2001.

"I had won and we were standing down in the motorhome lot, it was 1 or 2 in the morning," Earnhardt recalled. "We had a circle of us all drinking beer, about 20 of us. I looked around and I knew everybody -- it was mostly team members and some friends of mine in town, and I looked to my right and standing next to me was Dale Jarrett.

"I asked him what he was still doing there. 'Why aren't you on your way home?' He said 'I wouldn't miss this. That was the coolest thing I have ever seen you do.' "

Perhaps that is Jarrett's greatest contribution to NASCAR. He gets the proverbial "it" -- he even understands that he himself is a bridge between the past and the present, through both his name and through his abilities.

"He is the kind of guy where you can say, 'Hey man, if this ever happens to me, what do I do?' " Earnhardt said. "He is going to tell you exactly the right way to go about it. He has just been a great friend."

Earnhardt realized that over beers that night in July after his Pepsi 400 victory.

"That was just, I don't know, it showed me a lot about his character right there," Earnhardt said. "At that time in my life, it meant a lot to me for somebody to care and want to experience that with you. Obviously there was a void there for me, and it meant a lot to me that he understood that and that was just a great moment for me."

No comments: