Freed-Hardeman University’s 55th Annual Benefit Dinner featuring NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. raised over $1.3 million dollars for student scholarships.
The $1,345.560 dollars raised last week surpassed last year’s total by more than $100,000 dolalrs.
During the 40-minute conversation between FHU President David Shannon and Earnhardt, the audience listened to stories about Earnhardt’s first driving experiences, dealing with losing and life outside of his father Dale Sr.’s, protection and shadow.
Earnhardt said he keeps three of his 26 trophy wins in his home: Daytona 500, Bristol, and the grandfather clock from Martinsville Speedway.
Earnhardt said he never drove without a scripture posted on his dashboard. Those scriptures were a gift from Stevie Waltrip, the wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip. Stevie Waltrip made it a point to share Bible verses with the drivers on the day of a race. She did this for Dale Sr., until he passed away. She continued to give the scriptures to Dale Jr., as well as other drivers. Waltrip wrote scriptures for a member of the Earnhardt racing family for at least 17 years. “I always had a scripture in my car and without it, I was very concerned,” Earnhardt said. FHU student government president Samantha McMillan presented Earnhardt with a Bible that had several passages highlighted that Waltrip gave him on race day.
Attendees erupted in laughter during Earnhardt’s description of what it really feels like to flip in a racecar. “You feel safe because you’re strapped in without a care in the world,” he said. “It’s a feeling of weightlessness and I also felt like I was sitting perfectly still. All I could think was ‘This is great!’”
Since Earnhardt’s retirement from racing in 2017, he includes being a great husband and father and one of NBC’s NASCAR broadcasters as his top priorities.
FHU’s annual benefit dinner is typically the state’s largest single-night fundraiser. For the past 19 years, it has generated more than $1 million annually to help students attend FHU.