Rebel With A Cause /
Hard-living Myers wants others to avoid his mistakes
August 11, 1999 - BY REA McLEROY, Richmond
Times-Dispatch Staff Writer
For years, Danny "Chocolate" Myers
lived the fast life. Partying with his friends, running with the tough crowd, the NASCAR
crew member enjoyed the high life.
Now, with gray sprouting in his hair and crinkles in the corners of his eyes, Myers laughs
about those days. He was a different man then.
Myers grew up in racing. His father was killed at Darlington Raceway in 1957, his uncle
died leading the race a year later.
Danny "Chocolate" Myers
Dale Earnhardt's Gas Man
When he was a teen-ager, Myers
began working with teams. He hooked up with Richard Childress and the two became close
"Childress and I go back a long ways, to Bowman-Gray Stadium [in
Winston-Salem]," Myers said. "It's always been a part of my life before I even
really knew it."
Still, in the late '70s he chose not to stay with racing, to venture into other areas. It
simply wasn't enough.
"I got away from it for a while, then I was watching it on TV one night and saw a
bunch of my old friends on TV and I said, 'You know, that's what I really want to do.'
That was 1982. Myers called Childress and in 1983 returned to racing as Dale Earnhardt's
gas man. The team had fun, enjoyed its success. That was in the days when Earnhardt was
The Man. That was before NASCAR became America's passion, before crews and drivers became
celebrities. In those days, Myers didn't worry much about being a role model.
"I had a pretty bad reputation for a while, being a tough guy and a biker dude and
all that, and I probably was all those things," he said. "I look back and I'm
like, 'Geez, I've changed my life so much in the last seven years, if I'd been like that
to start with, there's no telling where I would be today.' "
Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, Myers slows down as he dwells on what might have been. At
age 50, and talking about his future in racing in terms of months instead of years, he
wonders just what life could have been like. It's a regret he doesn't want others to
These days, when he's not fighting the heat in the garage or practicing pit stops at the
shop, Myers is talking to kids. He goes to autograph sessions, speaks at outreach sites
and to youth groups. He wants them to learn the lesson without living it.
"That's what I try to tell the kids, you just have a short time in life to do those
things, so don't look to be like me and look back over my life and wonder how much time I
wasted trying to be 'bad,' " he said.
That reputation that he once carried without thought now haunts him. He hasn't had a drink
in seven years, spends his time being a good father to Alexi and a good husband to Caron.
They travel with him to speaking engagements and races. His priorities have shifted.
Still, despite all he has done to change his lifestyle, Myers is confronted with his past
"It really hurts today. Like, I was in Charlotte and I spoke at the outreach trailer
out there and I got up to give a testimony and the next day, a couple of guys said, 'Hey
man, I heard you were out last night drinking and raising [a ruckus],' " Myers said,
shaking his head sadly.
He is resigned to those moments, but doesn't dwell on them. These days, his attention is
focused on the future of others. Being a role model, signing autographs, is something
Myers views as an honor. As he talks to kids, works to turn young lives around, Myers
never forgets what he is trying to give others -- even when it starts with just an
"Bobby Allison told me a long time ago that every autograph is a compliment," he
said. "Even when you're tired and disgusted and wore out, if somebody asks you,
you've just got to sit and think if it weren't for these people I wouldn't be doing this.
I feel very blessed."
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