My brush with the greatest stock car driver...

I have been a Dale Earnhardt fan ever since he appeared on the NASCAR circuit. I remember going crazy in 1990 watching him take the white flag at Daytona...then the heartbreak of that flat tire. I have been going to the races at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS) since I was a little kid. I always wanted to meet Dale. So for one of the races at MIS in the early 90's my wife and I obtained a pair of garage passes. We met Bobby Allison at that race, still in the early stages of recovery from his accident. We watched the race and before the race was over we went to Dale's hauler. I know he always leaves the track right after the race to avoid the crowds. So we stood there hoping to get a quick autograph. Instead, we saw him start to climb out of his car....only to collapse on the ground next to it! He was overcome by fumes and heat. Chocolate Myers ran out and carried him into the hauler. A few minutes later he came out with an oxygen mask, gave us a wave, and got in a car and rode away. We were really bummed!

However, in 1998 I had the opportunity to go to a black tie banquet put on by General Motors while Dale was in town for the race at Michigan. During the banquet Dale spoke to the crowd. He was still nursing the injuries from the big crash at Talledaga and could not sign autographs (caused too much pain in his shoulder.) As part of the program everyone in attendance was able to have their picture taken beside the Goodwrench #3 show car with Dale on your right and Richard Childress on your left. I shook their hands and was VERY nervous! I could not even speak to him! I had my picture with him and then stepped aside. My father went up next for his picture. After the picture, my father showed Dale a picture of me in victory lane. Dale asked who the driver was. My father pointed to me. Dale gave me a big smile and a thumbs up as he said "Good job! Keep on winning those races!" That was very cool! In so many photo's and video of Dale we see him giving the thumbs up. I can proudly say that in my lifetime I got a "thumbs up" from Dale Earnhardt! I will never forget that! The pictures they took were later autographed by Dale and Richard and sent to us in the mail. Rest in peace are the man!