Back in 1980, the NASCAR legend won his very first Winston Cup Series Championship in only his second season racing at that level.
It was the first of seven for The Intimidator, and along with that lifetime career goal achievement came some pretty big checks, as well.
Seeing as Earnhardt came from pretty modest beginnings, growing up in small town Kannapolis, North Carolina, it was the first time he’d ever seen money like that.
And while all of the wins certainly meant more to him than just making money, it was pretty special for him knowing he could finally buy his mother a really nice gift for Christmas that holiday season.
In the 2015 I Am Dale Earnhardt documentary, Joe Whitlock, a NASCAR legend who started out as a writer and eventually became the public relations director at Charlotte Motor Speedway among other things, recalled just how much it meant to Sr.
He said they came back home to North Carolina after all of the big celebrations, and his friend starting crying, and laughing, out of nowhere.
Whitlock of course inquired as to what was going on, and Sr. told him that it would be the first Christmas that he could ever buy his mother something “that doesn’t plug into the wall.”
Sr. had previously bought her little things like toasters and appliances along those lines, but that year in 1980, he bought his mama a brand new pair of diamond earrings:
“After he had won the Winston Cup crown, we came home and he’s driving the car and I’m sitting the in passenger seat.
And he starts crying, he’s laughing and crying, it’s not a serious cry. And I said, ‘What are you cryin’ about?’ And he says, ‘You don’t understand, this will be the first Christmas of my life I have ever given my mother something that she doesn’t have to plug into the wall.’
I guess he had given toasters and stuff like that, and he bought her some diamond earrings.”
His late mother Martha, who passed away on Christmas Day in 2021, recalled being surprised that her son could even afford something like that.
She kept the earrings until the day she died, but said in the documentary that she really thought it was “just amazing how he fought to get to where he was”:
“I still have my diamond earrings, yeah. And it was really a big surprise that he could even afford that, you know.
But he was always springing something on you, and I thought it was just amazing how he fought to get to where he was.'”
A (rightfully) proud mom, indeed, who no doubt played a huge part in helping her son get to be the icon and legend that he ultimately became.
I know we’re still a good month out from Christmas, but this is such a sweet story that paints The Intimidator in a different light than maybe what we’re used to hearing and seeing from him that is absolutely precious.
You can watch Martha and Joe tell the story in the full clip below, and I’d highly recommend doing so:
This is a nice little Christmas story. Joe Whitlock remembers the Christmas when Dale Earnhardt finally had enough money to buy his mother a nice gift. pic.twitter.com/7tJ0LOHvl0