Duty Calls For DEI Drivers

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kenny Wallace are already two of the more popular drivers on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit.

On Monday afternoon, however, the two Dale Earnhardt Inc. drivers won over a whole new set of fans.

During a press conference with Wallace and Earnhardt Jr. at Lowe’s Motor Speedway to kick off the annual Lowe’s Motor Speedway Media Tour, the two drivers received a surprise phone call. The call came from United States sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea on call for the conflict in Afghanistan.

The aircraft carrier left its base in Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 17 and has been away from home for 117 days. Officials aboard the ship said that nearly half of the sailors on board were NASCAR fans, and they were hungry for their NASCAR news.

Wallace and Earnhardt Jr. were both surprised and humbled to talk to the service men and women.

“You guys are so gracious to talk to us from over there, and we want you to know that you’re the real heroes,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It’s a real honor for us just to be able to talk to all of you.”

“I’ve got just one thing to say to you guys,” said Wallace, whose voice was being heard over the public address system throughout the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. “Kick the sons-of-bitches’ asses. We just want you to know that we’re very proud of all of you and the job you’re doing.”

PC2 James Harris, from nearby Kannapolis, N.C., is a lifelong Dale Earnhardt fan and said he always will be.

“Your dad is still my No. 1, but I guess you’re No. 1A,” he told Earnhardt Jr. “With all due respect, Mr. Wallace, Kevin Harvick is my No. 2.”

Bill Lucas, a sailor from Pittsburgh, Pa., has been unable to keep up with what has gone on in the NASCAR world over the past few months. He wanted to know what was happening with Wallace and his No. 27 Eel River Racing team.

“Well, I’ll get you up to date a little bit,” Wallace said. “That team has since shut down and I left there a few months ago. I still had my Busch Grand National ride and won a race, but I also hooked up with DEI and the No. 1 car because Steve Park got hurt.

“I’m going to be driving until Steve gets back, and I’ll still have the Busch ride. So, it’s been quite an interesting ride over the past few months, hasn’t it?”

Lt. Carl Zeigler said all of the men and women will continue their duty aboard the ship until such time that they’re ordered to come home, but that they will try to keep up with what’s going on in the NASCAR world.

“We know we’ve got a job to do over here, and we’re grateful for all of the support that we’ve gotten from everybody over in the U.S.A.,” Zeigler said. “You can rest assured that when we get back home, those of us who follow NASCAR are going to come back and get to a race as soon as we can. In the meantime, we’ll do what we can to follow what’s going on.”

Wallace “volunteered” the media in attendance to send faxes of all qualifying and race results to the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.

“It’s the least I can do,” Wallace joked.

While officials couldn’t say when the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt would be returning to the United States, Lowe’s Motor Speedway President and General Manager H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler extended an invitation for every service man and woman aboard the ship to attend the NASCAR Busch Series CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 at LMS on May 29, a race in which both Wallace and Earnhardt Jr. will participate in.

Wheeler said each of the sailors would receive a free ticket to the race.

“That’s the least we can do for them,” Wheeler said. “After all, they’re laying their lives on the line over there for us and making such great sacrifices. We’re very proud of all of them.”

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