When you hear the name Dale Earnhardt Sr., you think of the legendary driver— not a country music star. However, in addition to his NASCAR titles, he also held the title of country music singer when he appeared on an album alongside fellow drivers.
NASCAR fans will remember Dale Earnhardt Sr. as a legend we lost too soon. In addition to winning a total of 76 Winston Cup races and the 1998 Daytona 500, he also had a brief stint as a country music vocalist.
In the mid-1980s, as Earnhardt was quickly climbing the ranks in NASCAR, he appeared on a project commissioned with Piedmont Airlines on the album, World Series of Country Music: Stock Car Racing’s Entertainers Of The Year, Volume One. While it was a left turn for The Intimidator, it made his fans rev their engines.
The album featured some of NASCAR’s best and brightest, which happened to include Earnhardt. Finally, fans would get the combination of NASCAR with country music. Appearing alongside other NASCAR legends such as Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Terry Labonte, Richard Childress, Earnhardt laid down his own country music track.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. Joins Fellow NASCAR Drivers on Country Album
The album’s concept was to have 21 drivers sing a song about themselves as NASCAR drivers. Dale’s track, “Hard Changer,” told the story of a man with a simple life who enjoys doing what he does best— charging, and charging hard. The project was a success and sold more than 20,000 copies in the first few months of its release. According to Mike Hopkins, the project’s lead, when he asked the drivers to be on the record, none of them turned down the offer.
“They’d be listening to a tape of Dale Earnhardt or Ron Bouchard,” said Hopkins, “and they’d say, ‘Hey, if you can get him to sound that good, maybe there’s hope for me!'”
To find inspiration for the album, Hopkins interviewed the drivers about their values, fears, goals, and families. Afterward, he typed the transcripts and sent them to different songwriters, who then wrote songs personalized toward each driver.
“Now some of these songwriters had never been to a stock car race,” Hopkins said in an interview for Sports Illustrated. “I told them, ‘Here are the words of an auto racer, what he believes, what he stands for. You go and write me a song from this material.’ The songs we got back were fantastic. We had 80 good enough to put on the record (there were over 100 songs to choose from). We narrowed them down and found the 21 that best suited our racers, and then we started flying the drivers in to record.”
In fact, Kyle Petty did so well on his song that the Nashville Network loved his invited him to perform live on their show, Nashville Now.