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Blk3GM's
Earnhardt Racing News and Rumors
page 5

Dale Jr. honors the generations that came before him...MOTEGI, Japan -- Family is exceedingly important in Japanese culture. The sins of a father can effectively ruin a son's future, and an offspring's misdeeds can stain the honor a father has spent a lifetime earning.
Into this place come the Earnhardts, father and son, with their very American style of playful banter that often makes them seem more like rival brothers competing for station in life.

Perhaps, however, this place thousands of miles from their uchi, their home in North Carolina, is a good place for them to race each other for the first time.

``The feeling I got when I got on the race track with my dad was far better, it far exceeded winning the Grand National championship,'' Dale Jr. said Friday after the first practice at Twin Ring Motegi, the site for Sunday's Coca-Cola 500 NASCAR exhibition race (10:30 p.m. Saturday EST, televised on TBS).

As the younger Earnhardt's words were being translated for the Japanese media, his father raised his eyebrows in surprise at his son's remark.

``I know that's a bold thing to say,'' Dale Jr. said, ``but I am telling you, the championship was special but this was different.

``When I was a little kid, watching my father race ... I never sat there saying, `I want to win the Grand National series championship one day.' I said, `I want the chance to race against him.' As long as I can remember, racing against him was always a dream.''

As much as Dale Jr. wants to honor his father, he also has a strong desire to beat him. In Friday's practice, the son posted a slightly better speed on his best lap than did his father, although both had their Chevrolets in the top 10.

When you think about it, that desire is the greatest Earnhardt heirloom, a treasure first handed down from Ralph Earnhardt to his son on the dirt tracks of the Carolinas.

``I remember the first time I rode in a race car with my dad,'' Dale Jr. said. ``I remember the first time I watched him race. And I remember the first time I ever raced against him. Well, we were on the same track but I don't think I would call it racing because I could hardly keep up with him.''

Earnhardt, of course, has set a pretty high standard for his son, winning seven Winston Cup championships and 71 races and becoming the man many think is the best driver ever strapped into a stock-car driver's seat.

``When I was Dale Jr.'s age I was slinging dirt around and having a good time,'' Earnhardt said. ``I wasn't polished at all, but as far as talent and believing I could get in a race car and go out and win, I think I was in the same mode as he is in right now.''

Earnhardt owns his son's Grand National team, which just last weekend clinched the series championship. Earnhardt's wife, Teresa, Dale Jr.'s stepmom, is listed as owner of the car Dale Jr. has here. Still, Earnhardt sounds a lot like a car owner as well as a dad.

``His confidence level in what he can do is very strong,'' Earnhardt said of Dale Jr. ``I worry about him. I talked to him about getting out here in practice and taking care of the race car, because he just has one car here and you don't have a chance to mess up. Then he goes out there and drives it off into the corner and is among the top 10 fastest, just like there's nothing to it.''

Hanging in the shop at Dale Earnhardt Inc. is a plaque with two fish mounted on it. One of the crappies is the first big fish Dale Jr. ever caught. The other is one caught the same day by his father at the Earnhardts' Lake Norman house. One fish is slightly larger, and father and son each claim that is the one he caught.

Dale Jr. is already a big fish in racing's pond. He'll return to the Grand National circuit next year, but will try his hand in up to five Winston Cup races as he prepares to move up to that circuit full-time in 2000. A lucrative Budweiser sponsorship is already in place.

He's glad his father will be a part of that future.

``I want to make my own way, but I want to do it close to him, with him keeping an eye on me to make sure I am doing it right,'' Dale Jr. said. ``I don't want him or anybody to say, `This is the way I did it and it's the only way you can do it because it's how I did it.' I want to go around the corner a little different than he goes around it because I think I might be able to go around it a little quicker.

``I want to have a mind of my own, but I want him to be able to enjoy whatever happens with me, hoping those are good things. I'm certainly going to listen to what he says and take it to heart. Who wouldn't?''

Earnhardt knows the path his son has chosen, and looks forward to the opportunity to help him follow it.

``It was finally in the late '80s before I really had that confident feeling that `I made it, I'm going to be OK. If I don't keep this job, I'll get another one,' '' Earnhardt said. ``I felt confident in what I was doing. He's probably having the same feelings and it's going to take a while to get that confidence before you're OK.

``In the '90s, I'm finally confident that I am going to be OK in life. No matter what happens, even if I have to stop racing, I am going to be fine. I have lot to look forward to. I have a great family and I can watch him race. I am going to be involved with that whether I am driving a race car or not.''

Tradition and honor, handed from one generation to the next. The Japanese would certainly appreciate that. So, too, will race fans.(11-21-98)(David Poole - That's Racin)

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NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi - Coca-Cola 500 Driver List

 

Driver

No.

Make/Model

NASCAR Series

1.

Michael Waltrip

7

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

2.

Jeff Burton

99

Ford/ Taurus

NWCS

3.

Ron Hornaday

08

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NCTS

4.

Jeff Davis

8

Ford/Taurus

NWWS

5.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

1

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NBS

6.

Dale Earnhardt

3

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWCS

7.

Scott Gaylord

67

Ford/Thunderbird

NWWS

8.

Butch Gilliland

10

Ford/Taurus

NWWS

9.

Jeff Gordon

24

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWCS

10.

Bobby Hamilton

4

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWCS

11.

Darrell Waltrip

88

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

12.

Sterling Marlin

40

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWCS

13.

Jeremy Mayfield

12

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

14.

Elliott Sadler

21

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

15.

Mike Skinner

31

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWCS

16.

Kelly Tanner

44

Pontiac/Grand Prix

NWWS

17.

Rusty Wallace

2

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

18.

Austin Cameron

11

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWWS

19.

Brendan Gaughan

16

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWWS

20.

Lance Norick

60

Ford/Taurus

NWWS

21.

Randy Nelson

82

Ford/Thunderbird

NCTS

22.

Ricky Craven

58

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

23.

Ron Burns

26

Ford/Taurus

NWWS

24.

Bill Elliott

94

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

25.

Rich Woodland

86

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NWWS

26.

Kenny Wallace

55

Ford/Taurus

NWCS

27.

Gary Smith

95

Ford/Thunderbird

NWWS

28.

Moto Hiro Nakaji

09

Pontiac/Grand Prix

NWWS

29.

Hideo Fukuyama

98

Ford/Thunderbird

NASCAR Licensed

30.

Keiichi Tsuchiya

00

Ford/Thunderbird

NASCAR Licensed

31.

Kazuteru Wakida

28

Chevy/Monte Carlo

NASCAR Licensed

NWCS -- NASCAR Winston Cup Series
NBS -- NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division
NCTS -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
NWWS -- NASCAR Winston West Series

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Earnhardts to race in Coca-Cola 500 in Japan

ATLANTA (Aug. 26, 1998)
Coca-Cola Classic is delivering the hottest father and son duo in NASCAR to racing fans. Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race head-to-head for the first time at the Coca-Cola 500 in Motegi, Japan on Nov. 22. To mark this historic event, both Earnhardts will drive special Coca-Cola race cars.

The Earnhardts were joined Wednesday morning at "World of Coca-Cola" by executives from the Coca-Cola Company, NASCAR and Action Performance Companies, Inc. for the unveiling of the actual cars to be driven in the Coca-Cola 500 race at the new Twin Ring Motegi oval. Dale Earnhardt's red No. 3 car features the signature Coca-Cola Red Disk Icon and NASCAR-themed checkered contour bottle. The famous Coca-Cola polar bear is highlighted on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s black No. 1 car.

"My dad is the reason I am in this sport and he's someone I have always looked up to, not only as my dad but as a great race car driver," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The biggest thing I'm thinking about right now is our team getting some cars ready that will be competitive. It might be really weird the first time I try to pass him on the track if I get a chance to pass him. But, it's something that will be exciting for both of us I'm sure."

"The one time I raced against my dad (Ralph Earnhardt) was at a dirt track," Earnhardt said. "I was racing this guy, and my dad, who was leading the race, came up behind me and I couldn't figure out what he was doing. Finally he started bumping me so I figured I better hold the car straight. He pushed me by this guy and I beat him, then dad drove on past me. "

"I got one exciting time racing with my dad and it was pretty neat. I would have liked to have done more of it. It is exciting to see Dale Jr. grow into the sport and it will be a great experience to race him in Japan. However, it wouldn't look very good for him to beat his good old dad, now would it?"

"This is our third year of NASCAR racing in Japan and our first appearance on an oval track with Twin Ring Motegi," said Brian France, senior vice president of NASCAR. "The Japanese fans will get to witness something special when Dale and Dale Jr. take the green flag. I know every race fan back in the states will be watching the father/son matchup on TBS."

The announcement of this first race with both Earnhardt and Earnhardt Jr. comes during a season in which both drivers have reached career milestones. Earnhardt, the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, achieved a significant career goal with his first Daytona 500 victory this past February. Earnhardt Jr. has taken the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division by storm, winning five races and leading in the point standings.

"NASCAR fans have been waiting to see Dale and Dale Jr. race on the same track for quite a while, and we are happy to be a part of this history-making event," said Jack Stahl, president, Coca-Cola USA. "Bringing friends and family together is what the Coca-Cola Racing Family is all about, and having this great father and son team race at the Coca-Cola 500 is a perfect way to cap our first year as the Official Soft Drink of NASCAR."

The company's involvement with the Coca-Cola 500 in Japan highlights its commitment to work together with NASCAR to develop international programs for the sport. Although the Coca-Cola 500 takes place thousands of miles away, diehard racing fans will be able to tune in to TBS Superstation race coverage. In addition, fans and collectors in the U.S. will be able to experience the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime event thanks to Action Performance, the industry leader in motorsports-related product licensing and merchandising.

Action Performance has created a vast array of exclusive Coca-Cola/Earnhardt merchandise and apparel that will hit mass retail department stores nationwide beginning October 1998. Fans may also purchase the collectibles at upcoming NASCAR racing events and order merchandise through the Racing Collectables Club of America (beginning Thursday).

"Our partnership with Coca-Cola is an example of how Action is using its full-service marketing capabilities to capture additional opportunities for creating new product lines, merchandising programs and marketing and distribution channels," said Fred Wagenhals, Action Performance chairman, president and chief executive officer. "Our abilities, added to the worldwide recognition of Coca-Cola and the legendary appeal of the Earnhardt name, will give race fans one of the most exciting programs in years."

In addition to the Earnhardt's father and son debut, other firsts at the Twin Ring Motegi race track include the first-time sponsorship of the exhibition race by Coca-Cola Japan Company and the inaugural running of the NASCAR event at the new 1.5-mile oval.

As members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family, Earnhardt and Earnhardt Jr. have participated in a wide range of initiatives on behalf of Coca-Cola designed to link racing fans to their favorite sport. Fans can spot Coca-Cola Racing Family members on Coca-Cola vending machines, in-store displays, on commemorative Coca-Cola contour bottles, in pre-feature entertainment at local cinemas and much more.(Nascar Online 08-26-98)

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