“Had to Burn Thousands of Those” – Veteran Insider Reminisces the Unspoken Side of Dale Earnhardt’s Stacy Racing Fallout

Published 01/07/2024, 8:34 AM EST

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Dale Earnhardt is most famous for his days with Richard Childress Racing, where he stayed until his last lap. But did you know there was a chapter before that? Yep, he briefly teamed up with Stacey Racing, but that stint was as short as a pit stop – just four weeks! Recently, a NASCAR fan stirred up some nostalgia by posting an autograph of Earnhardt on a poster featuring his No. 2 car, decked out in Wrangler sponsorship.

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The throwback caught the eye of a former Wrangler manager from the 1980-83 era, who reshared the tweet with a surprising tidbit. Back in the day, they reportedly had to torch thousands of those posters. So, what went down in those four races that had Dale Earnhardt packing up and shifting gears to Richard Childress Racing?

Dale Earnhardt was unhappy with the change of operations

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Dale Earnhardt Sr kicked off his career with Rod Osterlund Racing, joining a rookie class filled with future stars like Harry Gant and Terry Labonte. In his rookie season itself, Earnhardt proved his worth. He snagged a win at Bristol, nabbed four poles, landed in the top 5 eleven times, and the top 10 seventeen times. All this, even after missing four races due to a broken collarbone, and he still scooped up the Rookie of the Year title.

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But 1981 turned the tables. Just sixteen races in, Osterlund hit financial rough waters and sold his team to Jim Stacy, a newcomer from Kentucky. The kicker? Neither the drivers nor the crew knew about the sale until the ink was dry. Earnhardt, not too thrilled with the change, lasted just four races with Stacy before deciding to bail. He finished the year with Richard Childress Racing, behind the wheel of a Pontiac, and still managed a seventh-place finish in the points race. 

Earnhardt’s switch to Childress Racing came about under interesting circumstances. The original deal with Osterlund was sealed with just a handshake, so when Earnhardt wanted out, Stacy didn’t put up a fight. There are a couple of tales about how this switch happened. One story is that Wrangler, the sponsor with deep pockets, stepped in. They were ready to back Childress, but with one condition: Earnhardt had to take the Childress’s driver seat.

The other tale? It was rival team owner Junior Johnson who nudged Childress to hire a dissatisfied Earnhardt and hang up his own racing gloves. The deal wasn’t just about Wrangler’s sponsorship. It meant connections with General Motors Racing, engine deals, and the works.

No matter which version you believe, the fallout from Earnhardt leaving Stacy Racing was quite a spectacle. Wrangler had to torch a ton of posters that showed Earnhardt in the No. 2 car of Stacy Racing according to former Wrangler rep Dave Fulton. He confessed in his tweet: “I had to burn thousands of those and all other #2 Wrangler / Dale Earnhardt materials when we went to Richard Childress #3 August 1981 after Dale quit Stacy.” And through it all, while Earnhardt was on the hunt for a long-term racing home, Wrangler stuck by him like a loyal team member.

 

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The Intimidator and his sponsor Wrangler stuck together through thick and thin

In 1982, after waving goodbye to RCR, Earnhardt teamed up with car owner Bud Moore. He got behind the wheel of the No. 15 Wrangler Jeans-sponsored Ford Thunderbird, marking his only full-time ride in a Ford. But that year was a bit of a bumpy road for Earnhardt. Sure, he clinched a win at Darlington, but he also faced a string of 18 DNFs out of 30 races, landing him at 12th in the points standings – a bit of a low point in his career.

After the 1983 season, Earnhardt made his way back to Richard Childress Racing, sliding into the No. 3 car as Ricky Rudd trotted off to take over Earnhardt’s old spot in Bud Moore’s No. 15. The cool thing? Wrangler sponsored both drivers in their new digs. During the ’84 and ’85 seasons, Earnhardt found his groove again, winning races left and right – Talladega, Atlanta, Richmond, twice at Bristol, and Martinsville. He ended those seasons, standing tall at fourth and eighth in the points.

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But 1988 turned a new page in Earnhardt’s career, as he hit the track with a fresh sponsor, GM Goodwrench after Wrangler bowed out in ’87. However, the Wrangler legacy didn’t end there. Flash forward to July 2, 2010, and there was Dale Earnhardt Jr racing a No. 3 car, sponsored by Wrangler, for Richard Childress Racing at Daytona, keeping the family tradition alive and revving.

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

868Articles

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Controversies, gossip, and breakneck speeds? Count me in! While F1 has its charm, NASCAR helps me relive those "Roadrash" gaming days. My favorite among the drivers has to be Tyler Reddick. The 23XI Racing pilot is not only likable but also a complete beast when he is on track, more specifically, road courses.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath

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