Joe Gibbs couldn't compete with stuffed tomatoes when trying to recruit Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2007
Dale Earnhardt Jr. left Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team owned by his step-mother and started by his father, at the end of the 2007 and went to Hendrick Motorsports, from which he retired from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of the 2017 season. Meanwhile, the driver he replaced at HMS, Kyle Busch, went to Joe Gibbs Racing, where he remains. Those specific moves may have not happened had Earnhardt not been so distracted by some stuffed tomatoes when JGR owner Joe Gibbs tried to recruit him.
Earnhardt and Gibbs told the story of Gibbs trying to sign Earnhardt to JGR during a conversation recorded for Earnhardt's "Dale Jr Download" pod cast earlier this week.
"We’re sitting around this table, and they had these stuffed tomatoes with pimento cheese in them. And they were amazing,” Earnhardt said. "And I couldn’t stop eating them. And I couldn’t pay attention to what Joe and them were saying, because I wanted to eat more tomatoes.”
Gibbs, the former coach of the Washington Redskins, knew Earnhardt was a big Redskins fan, so Gibbs tried to play on Earnhardt's Redskins fandom to recruit NASCAR's Most Popular Driver by conducting the recruitment meeting at the home of Redskins owner Dan Snyder. But Gibbs didn't count on Earnhardt's love of the stuffed tomatoes.
"I’m trying to give him millions of dollars, and he’s eating tomatoes,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs and Earnhardt didn't strike a deal, but Earnhardt didn't leave the meeting empty-handed.
"Instead of walking away with a contract, I walked away with a recipe for the stuffed tomatoes,” Earnhardt said.