SURPRISE, Ariz. — Ned Yost stayed up past his bedtime, he said, to catch the finish of Sundays rain-delayed, crash-laden Daytona 500. He delighted in the victory of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who Yost has known since Earnhardt was 8 years old.
By ANDY McCULLOUGH
The Kansas City Star
They stay in touch through text messages. The Sprint Cup Series spins into nearby Avondale, Ariz., on March 2, Yost said hell try to invite Earnhardt to batting practice here at Royals camp.
He won it when he was younger, and had dyed his hair blonde, Yost said. But hes more mature, and can appreciate it more. Especially after working so hard the last couple years.
Yosts relationship with the family stretches back three decades. Yost met Earnhardts father in the 1980s. On a hunting trip back then, Yosts former teammate Jody Davis asked if he could bring a friend. That was Senior, already an accomplished racer and a tremendous hunter.
A phenomenal shot, Yost said. Ive seen him shoot things at 800 yards. Lost $200.
Yost became close friends with Senior. He often visited with him before races, sitting in silence as Earnhardt prepared. In the process, Yost learned how Senior earned his nickname, The Intimidator.
I asked Who are your friends on the track? Yost said.
He goes I dont have any.
You dont have any friends on the track?
He goes, No. I dont have a friend out here.
He said Because, I dont ever want anybody looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing the black No. 3 come up behind them, and think Im their friend.
That was the way he was. Just an intense competitor.