SI.com: What inspired you most about him?
Childress: He did whatever it took to win. If you were a race fan and you loved him or hated him, you watched him. We'd walk out and we'd be pushing the car to the line. If they were booing or they were cheering, the cheers were always louder, but you got the boos when we were winning lot, and he said, "Boy, the day they quit hollering, we're in trouble." He loved those race fans.
Whitaker: The most was his will to win. You saw a scuffle or two and some bad blood. You didn't want to talk to Dale after a bad day if he got spun out or something. He wanted to win worse than anybody in racing.
Myers: The same thing as Richard Childress -- desire and determination. Those guys never, ever let anything personal get in the way of what they did professionally and I mean that in the highest compliment. If we went to test and we were tired or it rained, we would wait. Whatever it took to be the best that is what they did.
Wheeler: His damn determination. He was unbelievable. He didn't know what no meant. Somebody outrunning him was the worst thing that could happen to him. We were having a dull day at the speedway one day and I called Lawrence Taylor's agent and they had a strike going on then. I got an airplane that day and had Lawrence Taylor come down to the track to watch practice because we would get some publicity out of it. The first thing LT did when he got to the track was he wanted to see Earnhardt because he felt he was the 'Middle Linebacker of NASCAR.' When they met you could see a great deal of admiration between the two of them.
SI.com: What do you think was his greatest accomplishment?
Childress: He had so many. I think if you ask me for the truth, if you ask Dale Earnhardt, he'd probably say his family, because I know what a family man he was and what he thought about his family. On the race track, what meant so much to him was winning that '98 Daytona 500. I remember winning Indy. Winning a lot of races and championships, winning the first championship in '86 with us was so special because he didn't realize when he won the won in '80, he didn't realize what it was or what it took. He really appreciated that first one with us.
Whitaker: As far as racing it's the wins and the championships -- to come from nothing and get all that he has got. I think it's from where he started to where he ended up would be a dream for anybody. He was at the top of the heap. We knew he could drive, but to accomplish what he could accomplish, anybody that knew that was coming were fudging a bit. You'd be hard pressed to have anybody that knew he would be that good.
Myers: It's what he did for the sport in all aspects. The way he raced, and the way he presented himself. Everything that he did for the sport is his greatest accomplishment in my opinion.
Wheeler: Not so much the seven titles but the wins and the way he did it. I think that was his greatest accomplishment. I'm not real big on titles. He won some races that some guys would have never, ever had a chance and settled for second. If he smelled a win, he would do it and that is what the fans loved and why they bought the tickets to see it.
SI.com: What's one thing about Earnhardt that most people wouldn't know?
Childress: He got a little superstition, everything from peanuts to green and all that stuff, but I think one of the things the race fans wouldn't realize was how giving he was, and he didn't want people to know he was. He may buy some driver tires at a race track or do something with an engine financially, and for the fans, he thought the world of the kids. I can't tell you how many Make-A-Wish kids he made their dream come true by spending time with them. And it was more than just walking out and giving them an autograph. He always tried to make them feel special.
Whitaker: His generosity. He helped a lot of people and really didn't want people to know. He was really a bit of a teddy bear to be such a tough guy. In advertising, any time we wanted to use him we could. In the old days when Rusty Wallace and him were fighting so hard in races we could use them in advertising. He never asked for anything. He would call every now and them for his buddies that wanted tires because he knew we sold them to him cheap. He got a kick out of helping him buddies get better deals for tires. He liked that a lot.
Myers: Dale loved to pick and cut up but he did not like to take it. He could dish it out but he could not take it. He would do things to us but he sure didn't want us doing things back to him. That is how he was.
Wheeler: His really deep feeling for his friends and the people that helped him get where he was. He had a genuine feeling about that and it was really neat. He never forgot you. He would always say again and again he won't forget what you did. He would always say something if you were in the crowd.
SI.com: What's your fondest memory of him?
Childress: I've got a picture of him hanging outside my office, and every day I walk in I look at it and think about him. If I'm on a hunting trip I think about him, if I'm hunting in Africa, doing one of these exotic hunts I'm reminded that he wanted to do that when he retired. There's so, so many fond memories of Dale from fishing and hunting. I'm probably one of the more fortunate people to spend time with Dale doing things besides the racing. I wish I could say one, but it's hard to say it's just the one.
Whitaker: The fondest memories are back when we were at the old store and he would bring his buddies like Ken Schrader in and would tell them this is where they would buy their tires. He got a kick out of our old store. He liked the wooden floors and the old fashioned way we did things. He would come and visit us quite often and come and eat with us quite often, too. He would even help us change tires and put them on the truck.
Myers: I don't have just a fond memory. We spent so many years together, so many hours on the airplane. It was just a privilege and a pleasure to be a part of this race team and a part of his life for so many years. He was almost like a brother, but not like you think. We led our lives and he led his life. We met at the race track and we raced. At the end of the day we went home and he went home and met at the race track the next week. That is how we spent our time.
Wheeler: He had given me a bunch of hell about picking Dale Jr. in the All-Star Race. He said I was putting too much pressure on him. I said I wasn't putting pressure on him; he was going to win the race. He said B.S. and all that stuff and that he wished I hadn't done that. I shrugged it off. Of course, when he won the race it was a big deal. About three weeks later, Dale had me come up to the farm that day. I went up to the farm and spent most of the day with him and we got in his truck and ran around and showed me his Bulls and all that stuff. He had the only truck that was messed up worse than mine. It was a neat day. We talked about his dad and his mother and all those things and what he wanted to do. He was looking forward to the day when he didn't have to race any more that he could retire and not have to do anything but run the shop. But that was the Garage Maj Hal, not a race shop. I told him if he builds that big thing in the middle of a dairy farm and some drunk in Mooresville comes down and sees this thing he would swear the CIA has opened up an office and he will never have another drink the rest of his life.
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