DJD: Tommy Russell - Living Scrapbook

Dirty Mo Media | 11/2/2021

Dale Jr. Download Media News

Dale Jr. welcomes in Tommy Russell, an early car owner of the late Dale Earnhardt, to give first-hand accounts inside the early years of the Earnhardt racing legacy.

When you have the opportunity to speak with a living scrapbook of the past, you open it and have a conversation. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and co-host Mike Davis welcome in Tommy Russell, an early car owner of the late Dale Earnhardt, to give first-hand accounts inside the early years of the Earnhardt racing legacy.

Russell's family was involved in the early stock car scene in the Carolina's with area stars like Dink Widenhouse, George Mantooth and Banks Simpson that took their cars from the dusty dirt ovals of the Carolina's all the way to the sands of Daytona. But it was an intersection with Dale Jr.'s grandfather, the great Ralph Earnhardt, that set in motion a relationship with the two families forged in speed and trust. Tommy gives a curious Dale Jr. insight into what it was like on Sedan Avenue working around the patriarch of the Earnhardt racing dynasty. The King of the Dirt Tracks helped the young Russell. Later on, he was able to repay his hero. The story though doesn't end with Ralph. Russell became one of Dale Earnhardt's first car owners. The two friends combined their efforts and started racing Semi-Mods at places like Concord Speedway and Metrolina Speedway. When the Earnhardt name showed up on the roof of Russell's cars, it was lights out for the other competitors. In a short span, the two combined to unleash their fury on the dirt scene in an effort that brought an estimated 65 wins.

Russell gives us all a peek into the early days of his race team and witnessing Dale Earnhardt's first-ever win. It is a moment that made him realize Dale was the driver he wanted behind the wheel of his cars. He talks about the progression of an eventual seven-time NASCAR champion. It was a journey from a homebuilt shop on the side of the Russell garage, to racing multiple times a week. They'd sleep at hotels with the door open and the hauler pulled up to the door, guarding their homemade racecar with a gun on the nightstand. It's a peek into the early days of Dale Earnhardt that nobody has heard before. Dale persevered, despite the tragic loss of Ralph Earnhardt in 1973. Russell gives us a look into the tough time and how they picked up the pieces and carried on.

When Dale made it to the big time, he never forgot his friend Tommy. He was with him for his very first NASCAR Cup Series start. The local boy Earnhardt had a lot of pressure on him to make the field that day. He got by with a little help from his friends... and we learn, a special bottle of speed. Fast forward to 1980, and the final race of the season at Ontario Motor Speedway, Dale brought his friend along with him to the track, to the parties, and even to Las Vegas.

Before Tommy Russell came to the Bojangles Studio to chat, the DJD was on fire about a lot of topics. Dale Jr. kept his thoughts about his recent test of the NASCAR Next Gen car at North Carolina's Bowman Gray Stadium to himself, wanting to save his thoughts for this podcast. He shares the experience and his concerns for the new Cup machine moving forward. He also spikes on Clint Bowyer's claim of being the fastest driver at the test.

Dale and Mike also chat about Noah Gragson's big win at Martinsville and how he has impressively ridden a roller coaster of a season to have a shot at a NASCAR Xfinity Series title. Speaking of JR Motorsports, Dale talks about the decision to bring a new Late Model Stock driver to the team and what he expects from young Carson Kvapil and the program.

The biggest NASCAR water cooler topic of the week was the controversy between Denny Hamlin and Martinsville race winner Alex Bowman. The DJD fires in their opinions during AskJr presented by Xfinity. They discuss the post-race drama and a different type of "hack" in the fan-driven segment.

That and much more on a packed edition of The Dale Jr. Download.