3: The Dale Earnhardt Story
3: The Dale Earnhardt Story is a 2004 television movie produced by ESPN depicting the life of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt. It chronicles his life from his humble upbringing in Kannapolis, North Carolina, throughout his career racing automobiles to include his rise to dominance in NASCAR, culminating with his death in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Its central theme focuses on the relationship between him and his father, Ralph Earnhardt, as well as the relationship between him and his youngest son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It was first broadcast on December 11, 2004, and subsequently released on DVD. Barry Pepper was cast in the lead role to star as Earnhardt; giving a credible performance which earned him a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie.
|3: The Dale Earnhardt Story|
3: The Dale Earnhardt Story movie poster
|Written by||Robert Eisele|
|Directed by||Russell Mulcahy|
|Theme music composer||Louis Febre|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Production company(s)||ESPN Original Entertainment|
|Distributor||Buena Vista Television|
Many of the film's race scenes were filmed at Rockingham Speedway. The track had lost its races and at the time was used mostly as a test facility and driving school. Chad McCumbee, who portrayed Earnhardt Jr., later became a NASCAR driver in the Truck Series. He also raced alongside Dale Jr. himself at the Pocono 500, driving Kyle Petty's 45 car, as Petty was in the TNT broadcast booth.
Actors playing the part of the Flying Aces were Ray Everett, Greg Davis, David Brooks, Robbie Hicks, and Don Gyr.
Copyright infringement controversy
The script of this film was not approved by Earnhardt's widow, Teresa Earnhardt, and his family. The film, although capturing the essence of Earnhardt, is inaccurate in many of the events seen in it. Richard Childress, the former car owner and team owner of Earnhardt, sued ESPN for copyright infringement with its use of the "3" logo.
The relationship between Darrell Waltrip and Earnhardt in the film focuses primarily on their fierce rivalry, with little attention given to the friendship that would develop between the two. Waltrip noted this on his website during the runup to the film. Waltrip eventually drove for Earnhardt's race team in 1998. Also, it is Waltrip's tear-filled voice that can be heard saying "I just hope Dale's okay," during the film's depiction of Earnhardt's fatal crash at Daytona due to the use of NASCAR on Fox's original footage and commentary, which is now owned by NASCAR Images (starting in 2001, NASCAR Images owns all NASCAR race footage; they also own the footage of the former Sunbelt Video).
Several cars shown in the film were historically inaccurate. In the moments before the 2001 Daytona 500, the cars of Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, and Rick Mast are seen, with Gordon's easily visible, as the 2001 season was the year the "Rainbow Warrior" livery was replaced with the "Fire and Flames" livery. Also notable was a wrong-year scene featuring Morgan-McClure Motorsports, where a late 1990s Kodak Max film livery was used for Sterling Marlin's car instead of the Kodak Gold film livery. (The design was based on a box of Kodak film.) Also, the film car was a Pontiac; the real car MMM fielded at the time was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Morgan-McClure Motorsports did, however, field a Pontiac Grand Prix in the 2003 season. Another inaccuracy is the depiction of Wallace's car, both as a Dodge Intrepid in the Daytona 500 (Penske Racing did not switch to Dodge until 2003, and he was driving a Ford Taurus in 2001) and with the usage of a Miller Lite logo that did not debut until January 2003, nearly two full years after the race in question took place. Labonte's No. 18 is shown as a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the 2001 Daytona 500 scene with the Chevrolet body style used between 2003 and 2005 and his corresponding 2003–2005 paint scheme. He actually drove a Pontiac Grand Prix in 2001 with his paint scheme from that year.
The February 23, 1986, incident at Richmond International Raceway was inaccurately depicted, where Earnhardt spun out Waltrip with three laps to go. In the film, his now-famous line "I didn't mean to wreck him, I just wanted to rattle his cage a little" was part of the post-race interview. That line, however, was not said at that time. Instead it was said at Bristol on August 28, 1999, after he spun out Terry Labonte on the final lap to win the Goody's Headache Powder 500.
In Earnhardt's first Daytona 500 start, the film shows him driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. However, he actually drove a Buick. Also mentioned in the scene that he finished 4th in the race, He finished 8th in his first Daytona 500 start and thus it is also inaccurate. He finished 4th prior to that once in 1978 at Dover and would not score another top 5 until North Wilkesboro that same year of his first 500 start.
During the scene of him being at a gas station, soon after the short montage of Earnhardt winning the 1980 title, it showed John Anderson flipping over during the 1981 qualifying races at Daytona, a race that Earnhardt finished 4th at.
The film made no mention of his two-year stint with car owner Bud Moore from 1982 to 1983 or his Budweiser Late Model Sportsman races for All Star Racing, the predecessor to today's Hendrick Motorsports. In fact, for many years, Xfinty Series cars by Hendrick Motorsports used No. 15 because Earnhardt drove a Hendrick-Gee car to a Busch Series win at Charlotte in 1983. From 2001 until 2005, the DEI Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Michael Waltrip was numbered No. 15 in honor of Moore.
Earnhardt actually first met his wife, Teresa, when she was about 16, and he knew she was Hal Houston's daughter (also the uncle of former driver Tommy Houston). Their meeting is inaccurately portrayed in the film.
In the scenes of the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt is seen wearing a helmet with Corvette Racing decals, rather than his helmet that had GM Goodwrench decals. (The Corvette Racing helmet was used in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with him sharing it with his son Earnhardt, Jr., Andy Pilgrim, and Kelly Collins.
In the 2001 Daytona 500 scene, Earnhardt is seen wearing tinted racing goggles. He actually wore his clear racing goggles in his final race.
None of Earnhardt's crew chiefs were accurately mentioned. He won his first championship with Doug Richert, then won his next four with Kirk Shelmerdine, and his final two with Andy Petree (later at ESPN and now at FOX Sports) at the top of the pit box. He won his only Daytona 500 with Larry McReynolds (currently with Fox Sports). None were portrayed in the movie accurately.
There are several mistakes in the 1998 Daytona 500 scene. During the final caution, Earnhardt is shown to take 4 tires during his pit stop. He actually took 2 right-side tires on his final pit stop. During the line of pit crew members congratulating him, it was very noticeable that the Winston logo (the series sponsor from 1971 to 2003) covered the NEXTEL letters on the banner, even though issues over tobacco advertising were prevalent. (NASCAR's ten-year deal with Nextel began in 2004, as the movie was being filmed; the deal has since been extended to 2016 by its successor company, Sprint.) Also in that scene, Earnhardt, Jr. is shown hugging his father in victory lane. He was not at the race, as he had returned home following the Napa Auto Parts 300 support race in which he was involved in a late race crash that resulted him going airborne.
ESPN Original Entertainment executive producer Will Steger was quoted in the Dick Berggren's Speedway Illustrated magazine (December 2004) saying the film was an "unauthorized docudrama...inspired by the true life of Dale Earnhardt." The story, written by Leo Dougherty, noted that Andy Hillenburg, the current owner of Rockingham Speedway, went across the country from Massachusetts to Florida to California collecting race cars for the film. He provided 62 cars that were built into race cars and painted to reflect cars of certain eras in the film. He owned the Bobby Allison car that was in the film. The car was in the Talladega museum and was the car Allison won the Daytona 500 with the year he beat his son, Davey, to the finish line. Ron Bouchard also loaned his 1981 Talladega-winning car to the film. Hillenburg is quoted in the article saying, "...those are the only cars that appear as they really are."
There was no mention of the rivalry he had with Jeff Gordon in the 1990s. This was a huge part of Earnhardt's last decade, because from the rivalry, a business was started between him and Gordon – a diecast model company that still exists today. It was also reported that Gordon became a close friend to him, and was basically trained by him in how to race, be the face of NASCAR, etc.
In the scene where Kerry and Dale Jr. are testing a car at Concord Speedway, a pickup truck in the background of a shot of Kerry watching Dale Jr. on track has a No. 8 sticker on the rear window in the same style that was used for Dale Jr's cars when he moved into the Winston Cup Series.
During one of the scenes taking place in the 1970s, Earnhardt is shown placing a money clip on the table holding what is clearly a new-style $20 bill.
Realtree was shown as a sponsor during a dirt track race in the 1950s early in the film, but it was not founded until the 1980s.
Sunoco Gasoline is shown on the fuel tankers in the film, but Union 76 fuel was used in the era. (Sunoco did not sign with NASCAR until the start of the 2004 season. However, it should be noted many short tracks used Sunoco or CAM2 (now part of Sunoco) even in the 1970s.)
In two different scenes in the film, the infield of various tracks were shown with flags of drivers who were not driving at that time were shown, such as Tony Stewart's flag at the Darlington race in 1990, where Neil Bonnett suffered a violent crash, along with several other cars involved.
- Heffernan, Virginia. (December 10, 2004). A First Love Becomes the Family Business. nytimes.com. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
- The 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. sagawards.org. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
- Chad McCumbee. racing-reference.info. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
- Bell, Robert. (March 23, 2005) EARNHARDT'S '3' SPINS ITS WAY INTO COURTROOM A LAWSUIT FILED IN FEDERAL COURT IN GREENSBORO CHARGES ESPN WITH COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. greensboro.com. Retrieved November 16, 2015.