Ned Yost stayed up past his bedtime, he said, to catch the finish of Sunday’s 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.
They stay in touch through text messages. The Sprint Cup Series spins into nearby Avondale, Ariz., on March 2, Yost said he’ll 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 he’s more mature, and can appreciate it more. Especially after working so hard the last couple years.”
Yost’s relationship with the family stretches back three decades. Yost met Earnhardt’s father in the 1980s. On a hunting trip back then, Yost’s 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. “I’ve 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 don’t have any.’
“‘You don’t have any friends on the track?’
“He goes, ‘No. I don’t have a friend out here.’
“He said ‘Because, I don’t ever want anybody looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing the black No. 3 come up behind them, and think I’m their friend.’
“That was the way he was. Just an intense competitor.”