Dale Earnhardt Turned Down Willie Nelson When He Offered Him A Joint While Shooting Their Iconic Wrangler Ad Campaign

Willie Nelson Dale Earnhardt

Is Dale Earnhardt the only person who ever passed on the opportunity to smoke with Willie Nelson?

Back in the in the 80’s, Willie Nelson and Dale joined NASCAR team owner Richard Childress (who Dale Sr. drove for) to participate in an advertising campaign promoting Wrangler jeans.

Funny enough, Dale and Willie actually share a birthday (April 29th), and I’ve always thought that was no coincidence, but I digress…

They shot the ad in San Francisco, and a few years back at a Wrangler event in Greensboro, North Carolina, Richard told Fox Sports the story of how it all went down.

And it pretty much happened exactly the way you’d imagine, and is quite possibly the best story I’ve ever heard:

“I came in from hunting in British Columbia and Dale and I ate at one of those really neat seafood restaurants there (in San Francisco). We got up early the next morning for the photo shoot.

Dale and I were sitting there waiting, I was expecting Willie to come out with a cowboy hat and everything.”

He actually showed up in a Members Only jacket, which is just hilarious (and awesome):

“He came out with a baseball hat on and wearing a black Members Only jacket. That was his disguise back in the day.

So he jumps in the limo and we shake hands. That was the first time I had met him. I’m not sure if it was for Dale.”

Though Willie didn’t show up in full-on Texas cowboy garb, he did have his signature accessory on hand:

“But he sat over there and fired up a joint, and started smoking on his joint. He leaned over (as if to offer it to his fellow passengers) and Dale said, ‘No, we’re going to drink some whiskey later.’

But that’s the story behind that photo shoot right there. That’s why he’s smiling.”

And I’m not someone who really does that either, but if Willie Nelson offered… I don’t really see how you can turn that down? Though, the visual of Willie lighting one up and Dale and Richard downing the whiskey on set with Wrangler is pretty iconic, too.

I cannot think of a more on-brand scenario for all parties involved here, and I only wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall during this whole day.

Of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was so young at the time that he didn’t think of his dad as a celebrity, and was mainly just excited their family was collaborating with Willie Nelson for such a cool project, which also featured some more advertising to help promote Willie’s tour at the time:

“Dad had ‘One tough customer’ on the back of the car and they were cross-promoting that with Willie’s tour. So it was a pretty neat deal for me at that age.

I didn’t look at dad as famous or any sort of celebrity… We were all pretty giddy that Willie Nelson was involved in anything we were doing.”

The slogan for the whole Wrangler photo campaign was “Winners wear Wranglers,” and with that and all the iconic photos that came from it, I’d say they pretty much nailed it.

I haven’t seen a better one since…

Check out some of the super cool footage of Dale Sr. with all the Wrangler sponsorship that coincided with this ad campaign back in the day and that iconic yellow car:


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock