When you think of Dale Earnhardt, you probably think of the tough-as-nails Intimidator taking no prisoners behind the wheel of the iconic #3 car.
And that was definitely one side of the Man in Black.
But Earnhardt also had a playful side – and wasn’t afraid to play pranks off the track.
During an early episode of his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download, Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the story of one particular prank that apparently had people in the garage holding their noses.
The prank war between the two drivers took place as Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace were locked in a battle for the NASCAR Cup Series champion. And Earnhardt was always looking for an advantage on the track, so he tried to take the opportunity to rattle Rusty’s cage off the track.
According to Dale Jr.:
“My dad put sardines underneath the seat of Rusty’s car. Imagine those things cooking at 150, 180 degrees and having to deal with that all day…
Dale Jarrett said it stunk like crazy.”
Yeah, I’d rather not imagine that. Not sure my stomach could handle it.
Rusty confirmed the story when he was on an episode of the podcast:
“I’ll never forget when I get in the damn car at Darlington. And I get in my car and it stinks so bad I can’t see straight. And I get in and I sit down and I feel like I’m sitting in this big ole’ mush.
And I get out…and I pick the seat cover up and it’s full of sardines.
I back out and I turn…and it’s not him standing by himself. There was like 8 of ’em behind him. They’re like a football team backing him up, ‘Look what we just did.'”
But Rusty said he got Earnhardt back the next weekend ahead of the race at Bristol:
“We used to stick our steering wheels on the roof of the cars. So he’s over there just going on and on and on, and I just reach up there and take the steering wheel off the roof of his car and I just walked around real quiet. Nobody saw me. Nobody saw me take a damn steering wheel off the roof of a car.
So I took the wheel and I put it in my car. I’m sitting there on pit road getting ready to start the race…
And they’re all buckling down and all that and I’m just looking in the mirror of the car and I’m looking, and all of a sudden I see panic going on. They’re all going apesh*t.
Everybody’s going nuts. ‘Where’s the wheel?’ ‘You got it.’ ‘No I don’t have it, you got it.’ They’re going nuts.
It’s just getting frantic. They’re freaking out. We’re getting ready to say Gentlemen start your engines in the doggone Bristol 500 and damn Dale Earnhardt doesn’t have a steering wheel.
And he’s just going crazy.”
Well Rusty finally pulled Earnhardt’s steering wheel out of his car and waved it around to show Earnhardt and his team where it was, and he says Earnhardt was a good sport about the prank: