Dale Earnhardt Jr. could be excused for his look of nervous anxiety when Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage rode into the media center on Friday morning wearing a cowboy hat and western-style shirt, both outlined in lights, while atop a thoroughbred horse.
The look was reminiscent of “cowboy” Amon Carter of the 1930s.
“You look nervous,” Gossage said, to which Junior replied, “I am a little nervous.”
Of course he was. In the past few years, Gossage’s going away presents have included Shetland ponies (Jeff Gordon) and a life-sized bobblehead (Tony Stewart).
Junior, who will be making his final appearance at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 Cup race, got off fairly easy.
Gossage presented Junior with three gifts.
The first was a TMS sponsorship of a therapy horse renamed “Dale Jr.” at the Victory Therapy Center in Roanoke. The horse would represent a lasting relationship of “Dale Jr. and Junior Nation here in the community.”
Next was the No. 1 position with Junior’s lighted number “8” from the scoring tower of the DirecTV 500 in 2000, his first career Cup victory.
“That’s it? That is the one?” Junior beamed.
That was indeed the one, Gossage assured him.
Lastly, Gossage and TMS presented Junior and his wife, Amy, a Victoria native and on hand, as well, a baby stroller designed as a car. The two are expecting.
Inside the car was a gift bag of TMS onesies.
It was an early shower gift, Gossage said.
“You’re a very smart man,” Gossage said, “marrying a Texas girl.
“Are you still scared?”
Junior shook his head.
“No, no, not anymore,” he said. “It’s over, right?”
Gossage assured him that he would also like to present him another trophy on Sunday.
“With all the integrity and seriousness that a man sitting on a horse inside of a building can offer,” Gossage said, “I want to thank you and congratulate you for all you’ve meant to this sport, what you’ve done for this sport just by being you. I appreciate how you’ve conducted this sport on and off the track.
“God bless you.”