Pushing race, Earnhardt pulls one over on fans

By speedreading car makes, driver's never in neutral

Sports Plus

April 16, 2000

Julie Moses thought there was something suspicious about the state trooper car riding alongside her. It was a Chevrolet, not a traditional Ford, and the guy riding shotgun looked familiar.

So she gave the car a hard look as she passed it. When the trooper pulled in behind her and flipped on his blue lights, Moses thought she was in trouble for staring.

She wasn't.

Moses was being singled out by Dale Earnhardt, who ordered Cpl. Damon Summers of the Alabama State Police to pull over the car so he could issue her a ticket -- to today's Die Hard 500.

Earnhardt, a seven-time Winston Cup champion, got the same reaction from dozens of motorists one day last month as he cruised around Birmingham.

The Intimidator was selective with the cars he picked to pull over, first choosing a Ford pickup so he could harass the driver about his make of vehicle.

Earnhardt, who drives a Chevy, is so particular about makes that he had state police borrow a Chevrolet Impala and turn it into a police cruiser rather than ride in the Ford model the troopers use.

"I don't think it would have been politically correct for me to ride in a Ford," Earnhardt said.

He later singled out a Chevrolet pickup because it had a large No. 24 stuck to its back windshield. Hoping to surprise Jeff Gordon fans, Earnhardt instead found a car full of his fans.

Turns out the 24 was in support of Birmingham-area racer Mike Harmon, not Gordon.

Lapped by the field

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Bob Sura recently played his first game after missing three weeks to injury, then huffed: "I felt like a Chevy Blazer trying to win the Indianapolis 500."

Despite his love for Chevrolets, don't expect Earnhardt to show up in a Blazer at the Die Hard.

Driving him around the horn

Baseball players can feel like vehicles, too, and not just those bullpen carts with the funny helmets. When pitcher Mike Hampton couldn't agree on a long-term deal with the New York Mets, his agent, Mark Rodgers, said:

"They decided to test-drive Mike for a year before they buy him. And, quite frankly, Mike gets to test-drive the Mets. No one gets the keys until November."

Stripped-down model

And sometimes the car is mistaken for a person.

Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve, after testing a new British-American Racing F1 car in which the rear wing and engine cover flew off:

"I suppose you could describe her as being like a fast lady -- you sit down beside her, and she just throws everything off."

Not just a couple of retreads

In a trade last season that should have made the Transactions page of Car & Driver, the Arizona Diamondbacks dealt pitcher Clint Sodowsky, who rebuilt his '57 Chevy, to the St. Louis Cardinals for John Frascatore, whose hobby is rebuilding engines from monster trucks and Harleys.

When these guys say they're having problems with their mechanics, it isn't what you think.

Too many road games?

Why did the Green Bay Packers fall apart under since-fired coach Ray Rhodes? Their defense sputtered, and their offense stalled.

When Rhodes was hired, he told the media he might "change a tire here or a tire there" but wouldn't "mess with the engine." He added, `What you do is pull a few spark plugs and wipe them off. You keep the car fine-tuned."

Instead, he went out and crashed it.

Compiled from wire reports by Andy Knobel

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