There’s been a lot of buzz around Kirk Shelmerdine in the last week, probably more than at any point in the 27 years since he unexpectedly walked away from being Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief.
But Shelmerdine, who won four Cup titles with Earnhardt and 46 races before he turned 35, is taking it in stride.
On this week’s “Dale Jr. Download” (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Shelmerdine quoted Clint Eastwood’s character in the film Unforgiven to express his view.
“The way I look at it is, Clint Eastwood says, ‘Deserves got nothing to do with it,'” Shelmerdine said.
“The list of names, if you look in the record book for crew chief stuff, mostly, my name’s in there next to Smokey Yunick and Junior Johnson,” he continued. “All these people that were heroes to me or bigger than life people. Racing was this whole dimension that you never thought a kid from Philadelphia is going to even be involved in let alone do well. …
“The Hall of Fame sort of caps it off. It was really a great feeling being on that list last year. You look at the people who are there. ‘Holy smokes, how can I be not only on the list, but way up the list is some categories?’ That’s a super honor already. Whether someone officially recognizes it or not ever, that’s up to them. I already kind of know what I had to do to get there and how lucky I am to just be on that list. It’ll happy sooner or later.
“They’ll be running out of people before long.”
During his podcast appearance, Shelmerdrine shared stories of how he broke into the sport in the late 70s, teaming up with Richard Childress and Earnhardt and why he decided to step away from his crew chief role after the 1992 season.
Shelmerdine also told of the time Earnhardt served as his spotter in his first start in NASCAR’s Sportsman Division at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1989
“He sat up there in the condo (in Turn 1) on the radio, and I wish I had a way to record that. It was gold,” Shelmerdine said. “I’m seeing the inside of his mind for two hours the whole time. He’s talking and mumbling, ‘Stay in that gas, boy.’ ‘What’s his name, he’s sideways. So what you got to do when you get to him is this.'”
After years of experience, Earnhardt also predicted when his crew chief would start to get uncomfortable in the cockpit.
“About 20 laps into the race he goes, ‘How’s your (expletive) neck right now?'” Shelmerdine said. “It was exactly the lap before I noticed, ‘Holy (expletive), my neck hurts.’ He said it the damn lap I felt it.”
Listen to the full podcast below and watch the TV version today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.