Dale Earnhardt had a way of getting into feuds on the race track; But, his hidden skill was defusing them off the track
Rick Mast had been through hell in his NASCAR career. He’d been broke, multiple times over.
He was doing all the work himself and the opportunities weren’t there for him. He was thrashing to come up with the funds to go racing.
In 1991, he finally had a good ride, a good sponsor and he was ready to contend for race wins in the Winston Cup Series.
At the same point, Dale Earnhardt had a way of ruffling feathers on the race track. Whether it was in a race or a practice session, he just had a way of messing with people.
Some crashes are an accident. But, in the old days, that didn’t matter either. Accident or not, payback was expected…
Rick Mast vs Dale Earnhardt
“Dale had helped me a lot in my career. Dale Earnhardt Sr never said no to Rick Mast,” Rick explained via the Dale Jr Download.
“I don’t know why or what. But, if I went to him for something, he was always there.”
“We get out first big time deal with Skoal. We run Daytona and finish 4th. The next race was Richmond. I qualify 12th or so, me and him [Earnhardt] are close together.”
“we go into the third turn on maybe the 20th lap of the race. He hits me and spins me, wrecks my car.”
“They bring it in and got it up on jackstands. They’re working on the car. I’m in the car and I’m mad.”
“Man, I don’t want to have to do this but I got to take care of this. My crew chief is Bob Johnson. I’m screaming on the radio, ‘Hurry up, hurry up.’ “
“Finally, all the crew guys leave the car. I look up and their sitting on the back of the truck.”
Johnson says, “Listen here driver, this is your first big time gig. This is a good gig. Everybody likes you, you’re a good driver and you’re going to make it here for a long time. I know what you’re getting ready to do. And I’m not going to let you go out there and do it.”
“So, I get out of the car. I get under the car and start beating on it myself. But, I never do get it. The race is over.”
Dale Earnhardt defuses the situation
“The next week, we go to Rockingham. I pull into the infield, in my street car. I don’t know where it come from. But, I turn around and there’s this butt staring at me.”
“There’s a person bent over with their butt staring up at me. I look around, it’s Dale.”
“I said, ‘What are you doing Earnhardt?’ “
“He says, ‘Go ahead and kick it. I know you want to.’ “
“We talk a little bit. He says, ‘Listen man, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that, I hit the apron.’ “
“I said, ‘You know all that I’ve been through. You’re the last person I would have expected to do that to me.’ Boy, I could have bought him for a dollar then.”
“In those days it’s kinda what you had to do. When you moved up, you had to protect your territory.”
Behind the scenes, how did Earnhardt did that?
“My boss says, ‘Rick, that was a bad deal last week. Now, you don’t need to retaliate to Dale.’ “
“Well, yeah I do. To me, it’s like eating. It’s something you have to do. You have to take care of this. It’s the way I’ve done it my whole life.”
“He said, ‘You want to drive for us at Skoal? Well, if you’re going to keep driving for us, you’re not going to touch that boy.’ “
Mast’s boss told him, “Dale came up to me Saturday morning and said, ‘that boy, your driver Rick, I love that boy. I’ve always helped him. He’s the last person on that track, I’d ever want to hit. I just screwed up. But, here’s the deal, I know that boy. I know what he’s going to do to me. And I’m going to try my best to win the championship this year and I don’t need him taking me out. Could you talk to him for me?’ “
Dale Earnhardt went on to win the 1991 NASCAR Cup Series championship.