They didn’t call Dale Earnhardt “The Intimidator” for nothing.
A recent Sports Illustrated article on the NASCAR icon headlined “Earnhardt’s courage on the track spoke volumes about the man off it” explored some of the stories you might not know about.
One anecdote about Earnhardt punching a deer poacher’s lights out and breaking his own hand was particularly awesome.
Take it away, Sports Illustrated:
Late one afternoon in early December a worker at the spread near Mooresville heard a far-off rifle shot. He and Earnhardt went to investigate and found a trophy-sized deer had been killed and hidden in a patch of trees. Earnhardt staked out the spot, figuring the trespasser would return that night to get the buck with the big rack. Sure enough, the guy came back. An irate Earnhardt and the poacher came to blows. Earnhardt fractured his right hand with a punch to the man’s jaw.
The incident occurred just before Earnhardt was to receive the trophy as Cup Series champion at the Waldorf Astoria. He had the cast on his hand painted black so that it would blend in with his tuxedo.
“Dale had no fear of anything,” says a longtime friend, former service station owner Jerry Ramey of Mooresville. “When he accosted that poacher, he didn’t know whether the man was carrying a gun or not. But he went after him anyway.”
Dale Jr. was all over it, sharing in the memory on Twitter.
“I remember this cast. The quote here is hilarious, and true. He didn’t like you shooting his deer. At all,” he tweeted.
The quote he’s talking about is the explanation of the black cast pictured:
Dale broke his right hand beating the hell out of a deer poacher on his farm. The Cup awards banquet was that week so he painted to cast to match his tux. Later, in my office, I told him he couldn”t run Daytona with it, so he got a pair of scissors, cut it off and tossed it to me as he left.
This is the stuff legends are made of.
Feb. 18, 2017 will mark 16 years since Earnhardt’s tragic death during the Daytona 500.