Daily Dish: Dale & Dale show at the ESPYs
by Ron Buck, ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- How do you put a seven-time Winston Cup champion and the defending series champion in awe? Put them in a room full of world-class athletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and Mark McGwire.

Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt rubbed elbows with sport's biggest names Monday night at the ESPYs in Las Vegas.
Fresh off a whirlwind cross-country trip to Las Vegas for the eighth annual ESPY Awards, Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett were still gushing Tuesday afternoon over their night among sport's greatest names.

"I had fun last night. It was great," Earnhardt said as he arrived for the afternoon practice session. "Going to the ESPYs was a unique experience. To be nominated (was nice), but to go and get an award was really unique. I'm just proud to go and represent NASCAR and be part of the show."

Earnhardt won the ESPY for the "Driver of the Decade," beating out fellow Winston Cup star Jeff Gordon, Indy-car driver Al Unser Jr., and NHRA Funny Car driver John Force. Earnhardt won four Winston Cup titles in the 1990s. But he was wondering what happened to the ESPY he deserved for the previous 10 years.

"Heck, I got it for the '90s. But hell, I thought I did pretty well in the '80s, you know?" joked Earnhardt, who won three of his championships in the '80s. "Hell, what happened to the '80s? I felt like what Dennis Hopper said. He said he missed the '80s. I didn't miss the '80s, I was there."

Earnhardt was joined on his private jet by Jarrett and their wives. The foursome left at noon Monday following practice and flew five hours to Las Vegas for the show at the MGM Grand. They arrived at 3 p.m. PT, put on their best formal attire, attended the three-hour show and were back on the plane by 7 p.m. PT and on the ground in Daytona at 2 a.m. ET.

But the Man in Black -- this time in a tuxedo -- had enough time to do some star-gazing from his ballroom seat.

"There were a lot of class acts there last night," Earnhardt said. "Jarrett was sure excited. He said he'd done it all now, 'I've talked to Gretzky, talked to (Andre) Agassi, spent time with Tiger Woods, I can go home happy now.' It's pretty neat to be around those kinds of people. I know some of them, but it's neat to see those people."

Jarrett picked up the ESPY for "1999 Driver of the Year," beating out Force and Juan Montoya. An avid golfer, Jarrett was still talking about the few minutes he spent talking with Woods, Ben Crenshaw and Julie Inkster. No, he didn't ask for any tips.

"I had a great time. It was just a wonderful experience to be part of those world-class athletes," Jarrett said. "To be able to finally meet people I've looked up to and admired. You couldn't have taken me to a better place. I'd never met Mark McGwire before. I met Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Joe Torre. I met Jordan for the first time. ... I could go on and on."

Sunglasses hid any bags under either Dales' eyes, but Winston Cup practice was pushed back 90 minutes Tuesday to 2 p.m. for some reason. It might not have been to accommodate the Dales, but after being part of the "Greatest Night in Sports," the extra rest was much appreciated by both.


"I'm sure we got a little help in the draft. But, we were consistently right up there, and quick and good in the draft. We're looking forward to the 125s."
Benson was fastest in Tuesday's practice at 194.070 mph.

"The Twins are fun races when they are over. I love racing. I love competing, but man, it doesn't get stacked any heavier on you than Thursday."
Waltrip will start 12th in the second Twin 125 race.

"Our qualifying time is nowhere near good enough to make the race. We're going to have to work on the car and race really good in the draft. We're going to have to race our way into the Daytona 500.
Marcis is hoping to qualify for a record 33rd straight Daytona 500.

A close shave
While some teams are sporting new color schemes this season, Jarrett is sporting a new look above his lip. He arrived at Daytona without his mustache.

Obviously, the defending Winston Cup champion isn't superstitious.

"I just decided I wanted to try something a little different," Jarrett said. "I don't think the mustache had anything to do with winning the championship. But, no I'm not superstitious."

And the reviews from family, friends and fans on his new look?

"Well, everyone has their own opinion about it. Some like it, some don't," Jarrett said.

What did you say?
The best-selling item so far at the souvenir stand doesn't have "Daytona 500" or a driver's image on it. Nope, it's ear plugs.

For two dollars, the roaring sounds of NASCAR can be muffled -- a necessity for most, with car engines reaching 100 decibels (the same level a jet engine makes when standing 100 feet away). But Daytona Speedway worker Betty Cox is one of the few exceptions. Despite working the front-stretch and Turn 1 souvenir stands for 11 years, Cox has never used the little foam plugs.

"Why bother," the 66-year-old Floridian said. "I guess I'm just used to the cars. It doesn't bother me anymore. I think I used them the first year I was working here, but after that it always, 'Why bother.'


Tuesday's birthday boy
The No. 26 garage was missing something during practice -- a birthday cake for driver Jimmy Spencer, who turned the big 4-0 on Tuesday.

"I'm getting to the age where you want to start reversing the years," joked the driver nicknamed Mr. Excitement. "My children sent me a real nice outfit. I miss them and that's the only thing I miss on my birthday is that some (years) my wife and kids aren't here. They'll be here (Wednesday) night, so we'll have a good time and go out for a little birthday party."

Spencer was 21st in practice, clocking a speed of 191.914.

Sterling Marlin | No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet
Daytona will always hold a special place in the heart of Marlin, who made the 1994 Daytona 500 his first victory after 279th career Winston Cup starts. Marlin was no flash in the pan either, coming back the next year to win a second straight Daytona 500. And guess what? Marlin's last win came in the 1976 Pepsi 400 at you guessed it -- Daytona International Speedway. Marlin entered Winston Cup in 1976 and has won 10 career races and finished a career-best third in points in 1995. It's been a while since he's been in Victory Lane. What better place than Daytona to return to a place he's been before.

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