Although we lost him way too soon, the impact he had on NASCAR and even pop culture could never be overstated. Born and raised in the small town of Kannapolis, North Carolina, he always had dreams to race with the best of them, following in his Dad’s footsteps who was one of the best short-track drivers in North Carolina.
Of course, the Intimidator rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Known for his extremely aggressive driving style and outlaw spirit, it wasn’t something that people necessarily loved at the time he was racing.
But, he is the best to ever do it, and that is a fact.
Unfortunately, I think he was misunderstood by a lot of racing fans back then. In a vintage interview from his home on Lake Norman, NC, in 1980, Dale Sr. talked candidly about his drive to win and what made him so successful.
Keep in mind, he was only 29 years old at the time, saying:
“It’s super. Ain’t nothing like goin’ fast at Daytona. You don’t have to worry about lettin’ off and crackin’ the gas, you can just go. It’s just the biggest thrill I’ve ever had. You relax.”
When pressed about the danger of the sport by Ken Squier, he responds with this:
“I ain’t never wanted to do anything else. Never, ever wanted anything as much as I want to race. Or enjoy it, or like it, or would give up most anything in life to have it, you know?
It was born in me, bred in me, I reckon. I think racing and that’s all I think. I have let it get in my way of personal feelings a lot of times. I chose racing every time.”
Not to mention, he’s sitting on his fishing boat with his iconic mustache, in flare jeans, looking absolutely cool as shit without a care in the world. Seriously, I don’t understand how you couldn’t love this guy. I know I said earlier this week that Waylon Jennings was the coolest guy who ever lived, but it might just be a tie between the two.
This interview was right before the 1980 Daytona 500, and when asked about his chances of winning, Dale Sr. said a very Dale Sr. thing:
“I think we got a 99% chance of winning.”
That year, he finished 4th because his crew left a lugnut off one of the wheels, forcing him to pit and cost him a lap on the final pace. But damn if I don’t love the confidence. If you want to know why he was the best, that’s it right there.
Do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing:
And Dale Jr. posted this today honoring his late father: