Obama has a fan in penny-pinching Earnhardt

January, 21, 2009
CONCORD, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is dying to meet someone.

No, all you single women don't need to start lining up. Earnhardt wants to meet President Barack Obama.

"I'm as excited as everybody else is about him," Earnhardt said. "I wish I had been able to go to the inauguration. I would love to meet him. That would be a great honor."

Earnhardt met with the reporters Wednesday as part of the Hendrick Motorsports stop on Day 3 of the annual NASCAR media tour.

He hopes Obama can help the country recover from the economic crisis.

"He understands we're in a difficult situation," Earnhardt said. "Even with the bailouts, that hasn't totally fixed everything. By the end of March, GM could again be out of money. We've still got a long ways to go. Hopefully, we all will survive the worst of it."

Earnhardt is one of the wealthiest drivers in racing, but he's frugal with a dollar. In fact, you might call him a cheapskate.

"I try not to spend money if I don't have to," Earnhardt said. "A buddy of mine said Circuit City was closing and he got a 62-inch DLP TV for 850 bucks. I was a little jealous."

Earnhardt said his race teams (Nationwide and late-model stocks) are doing fine financially because of his frugal approach.

"My late-model guys are running chassis that are 5 or 6 years old," he said. "They want new cars, but we just keep rebuilding them.

"I figured out what it cost to run a team in that series and I gave those guys a tolerance. I told them they had $50,000 to run the whole year on. It was plenty of money, but they all ran out with like five races to go. I parked them. They hit reality head-on and it was over."

Earnhardt also has some specific rules about cutting costs on his JR Motorsports Nationwide Series team.

"I tell my parts guy to keep the door locked," Earnhardt said. "Nobody is supposed to go in the parts room but him.

"Every time I see him I remind him, 'You better keep that door locked. I'm telling you, man. It's going to be hell if I come over here and two people are in this room.' I drive my guys crazy thinking up ridiculous ways we can save money."

If Earnhardt gets that dream meeting, maybe he could pass along a few of his ideas to the new president.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer


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