gonna fix it," Earnhardt snaps. "Ask Hawk. I don't want to talk about
Jeez. Pulling in
as much money as Earnhardt and Hawk do, why are they so upset about one little
counterfeit trading card and one bootleg poster?
market in NASCAR," says Hawk, "has got to be worth several million
dollars a quarter—in pictures, plaques, die-cast cars, collectibles."
against $42 million?
"They must be
countin' up all that bootleg——," Earnhardt says irritably, trying to
dismiss the big number.
Done at last with
the day's autographing, Earnhardt drops a worn-out felt-tip pen and says,
"I'm out of time, but I'll keep talking." He stretches out on the sofa,
resigning himself to a few more minutes of interview.
To have known him
since 1979 is to sense right now that " Earnhardt is antsy," as the late
Joe Whitlock often put it. Whitlock was Earnhardt's original image maker,
aide-de-camp, adviser, handler, nurturer, even coddler. The brattish young
driver was restless, idiosyncratic, unpolished, bewildered by his sudden
transition from small time to big time. Whitlock babied him, became almost his
surrogate father, and he created an image for Earnhardt in the media—even
landed him on the front page of
The New York Times
sports section in 1980, when
that realm was virtually unreachable for NASCAR.
antsy—let's go," Whitlock would command the driver's entourage when he
sensed that Earnhardt was in a hurry without knowing why. So it went for a
decade, until Whitlock, a hard-drinking, old-school NASCAR star maker, could no
longer keep pace with the Earnhardt phenomenon and its new corporate
To have known
Earnhardt and his circle since 1979, to have seen the way it was then and the
way it is now, is to feel compelled to ask, "Do you ever think of
his eyes. "All the time," he says.