20 year ago, a kid named Wessa Miller gave Dale Earnhardt a penny at the Daytona International Speedway. Miller, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord fails to develop properly. She is paralyzed from the waist down and has a shunt that drains fluid from her brain. Her family was a big racing family, her dad owning a sprint car team. Despite being from Florida, they moved when Miller was little to Kentucky. She became a fan of the Waltrip’s while her father was a Dale Earnhardt fan.
When Wessa was 6, a classmate suggested her parents contact the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which they did. Wessa’s wish was to meet Earnhardt.
That February, the family drove over 700 miles from their Kentucky home to Daytona Beach, Florida. On Valentine’s Day, she got to meet Earnhardt. She spent some time with him after final practice that day. See, the practice was on Saturday, the last session before Sunday’s big race. As Larry McReynolds, the crew chief of Earnhardt that season put it, he didn’t know where Earnhardt was. He was getting mad because the car wasn’t to their liking yet and he needed to debrief with him.
Miller, gave Earnhardt a lucky penny in which she rubbed, saying that he will win Sunday’s Daytona 500.
You know the rest of that story. McReynolds and Earnhardt taped the penny in the car and his No. 3 Chevrolet won in 1998.
20 years later, we have another lucky penny switching hands from a kid to a driver. This time, the kid was seven years old. The driver? Austin Dillon. The car number?
Dillon, won Sunday’s Daytona 500, the first win for the famed No. 3 since Earnhardt famously won the 1998 thriller. Like Earnhardt’s car, Dillon’s had a lucky penny taped in it too.
“It was really cool,” Dillon said after winning the Daytona 500 last Sunday. “We did an autograph session before the Clash, and a lot of fans were there, and some kids that I don’t think they knew a whole lot about racing, but they were enjoying themselves, and funny thing is he had a white Ford hat on. I said, man, you’ve got to take that off. I signed my hat, gave it to him, and said, now, look, I’ve got to be your favorite driver, right? And he’s like, all right, cool, I’ve got you now, and he was probably seven, eight years old, about the same age I would have been 20 years ago, and the next day, he had my hat on and I was walking through the garage, and I seen him at the fence, and he yelled at me, and I turned, I seen he had my hat on. So I was like, sweet. He’s like, hey, I got this for you. It was a lucky penny. Put it in the car, and it’s sitting on the dash right now, and it’s pretty special. I think that’s really cool. I’ve never been that superstitious in my life, but my grandfather is very superstitious, so I listened to him in the race, I ran the bottom more, I found a lucky penny, and it just worked out tonight, I guess.”
After the race, Dillon and Richard Childress Racing sought out the kid. They wanted to meet back up with him as a thanks. On Wednesday, that happened.
RCR tweeted a picture out of Dillon meeting the young boy. To make matters even better, Dillon brought along another guest with him – Darrell Wallace Jr.
Here this boy got to meet not just the Daytona 500 champion, but the runner-up too.
What a story.