“Don’t Hit Me When You..”: Dale Earnhardt Sr Caught NASCAR Legend by Surprise in the Cheekiest of Manners in 1998
2003 NASCAR Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth Made his Cup Series debut in 1998. In a career spanning 22 years, he accomplished a lot. Considered among the best racers during his peak years, he gave stiff competition to several legends of the late 90s, 2010s, and early 2020s. Among them was the Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt. In a fairly old interview, the driver recalled his first meeting with the Cup Series legend and 7-time champion.
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Kenseth told Sports Illustrated, “Probably the first time I met him, at the drivers’ meeting at Dover in 1998 for my first Cup race. He talked to me about racing with Dale Jr. and how he was happy that we were friends. He said to me, ‘Don’t hit me when you lap me today.’ I was like, Yeah, like I’m going to lap Dale Earnhardt. The cool thing was I actually did lap him that day. And that’s my favorite memory of him.”
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Dale Earnhardt had an incredible legacy in the NASCAR Cup Series
Being one of only three drivers to win the Cup Series on seven occasions, Dale Sr is a royal figure. It isn’t a surprise that many fans and professional drivers alike consider him to be the Greatest Of All Time. Tragically, he departed this world way too soon at the 2001 Daytona 500. Nevertheless, he left behind a rich heritage, and most drivers in the NASCAR arena pay their respects to him to this day.
That 1998 season was Kenseth’s first encounter with the legendary NASCAR driver. Interestingly, Dale Earnhardt was surprisingly genial, and going by his comments, was downplaying himself. Kenseth found it unbelievable that Dale Sr thought such highly of him. Somehow, Earnhardt’s prediction came true and Kenseth finished 6th in the race after lapping him. In all honesty, it was not a bad debut race for the future NASCAR champion.
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