that should be one of the fondest of his long life in sports. The day he was
driven around Daytona International Speedway by Dale Earnhardt was something
Bradshaw, a NASCAR fan and now a team owner, knew he'd cherish for the rest of
"Dale was taking me through turn 1, turn 2, turn 3 and turn 4, describing
what you want to do in the race car Sunday in the 500," Bradshaw said
yesterday. "It was pretty incredible."
Bradshaw, a Hall of Fame quarterback who won four Super Bowls in the 1970s,
speaks sadly of those thrilling moments. It happened a year ago this week, the
day before Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Bradshaw,
the last person to ride with Earnhardt, also lives with memories of a chilling
embrace on the morning of the Intimidator's final race. "You've got to listen,
because God will speak to you sometimes," said Bradshaw, recalling how
Earnhardt hugged him before driver introductions. "Dale Earnhardt grabbed me
last year behind my ears, forehead to forehead, and said, 'I'm so glad you're
here. You're my good-luck charm. I love you, man.'"
Earnhardt, the most influential NASCAR driver of the modern era, was dead
four hours later. Bradshaw carries that memory with him this weekend into a
partnership with Earnhardt's oldest son, Kerry, who will race tomorrow for the
Busch team co-owned by Bradshaw and Armando Fitz.
"He said to meet Dad was the biggest thing he's done outside of his Super
Bowls," said Kerry Earnhardt, 32. "You don't realize how much Dad meant to
people until you hear it or see it."
The Bradshaw-Earnhardt team debuts in one of the undercard events for
Sunday's Daytona 500. Earnhardt will start 27th in the 36-car field. The goal
is to move up to the top-flight Winston Cup series next year with Earnhardt's
half-brother, Dale Jr. "We're getting a lot of interest and we've done nothing
to deserve it," Bradshaw said. "It's just based on name only."
Yesterday, Bradshaw announced long-distance company 10-10-220 as a primary
sponsor. The team has sponsorship to run 25 races so far. Bradshaw learned
quickly that racing costs a lot more than a buck or two. "I'm not blown away by
the amount of money," said Bradshaw, who won't reveal how much he invested.
"I'm blown away by how hard it is to get that amount of money."
After making a handshake agreement to join Fitz last year, Bradshaw
attended about half the races on the Busch circuit, which is a feeder league
for NASCAR's top series, Winston Cup. He consulted several people before his
and built one of the elite stock-car organizations with drivers Tony Stewart
and Bobby Labonte.
"I wanted to work," Bradshaw said. "I needed the rush. Being a football
player all my life, one day a week, you get a pretty good rush. And you miss
it. You go through the tunnel and come into the track, that jacks me up."
This unlikely union has three distinct factors working in its favor. The
Bradshaw name is recognizable to mainstream sports fans, and there's the
Earnhardt lineage ("That's good breeding," Bradshaw said). Perhaps most
important is the handiwork of Dale Earnhardt Inc., which will build the cars.
"You have to be realistic, and I certainly am," Bradshaw said. "You crawl, you
walk, you trot, you gallop and then you go. Hopefully, that's what happens
When Kerry Earnhardt fires up his engine tomorrow, Bradshaw surely will
remember that embrace with Dale Sr. It's going to be pretty hard to forget.
"It was one athlete to another," Bradshaw said. "It was cool that he
respected me, and it blew me away that he was such a huge fan. When he came up
and did that, when he hugged me, man, it touched me."
TV: Ch. 4
Radio: WSNR (620)