Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 22, 2013

Windfall boy gets to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr.

12-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy granted lifelong wish

(Continued)

He pointed out that Earnhardt won two consecutive Busch Series Championships in 1998 and 1999. But he’s never won a Sprint Cup Series. His best finish was third in 2003, Royce said.

While Royce didn’t get to impress Earnhardt with those fast facts, he did stun the driver with his questions.

Earnhardt had never been asked about his favorite trophy or who in the world he’s learned the most from.

The answers to those questions? The Bristol trophy and his sister.

“He always liked the big and tall trophies,” Royce said.

Sheral said Earnhardt’s dad always had a Bristol trophy sitting in their home, and Earnhardt admired it growing up.

But he may have admired his sister even more. Earnhardt told Royce he’s learned the most from her.

“He said she helped him make good decisions and good choices,” Sheral said.

Royce will no doubt share his newfound knowledge with his friends when school starts again. And that list of questions scrawled on scrap paper will be framed for Royce’s shrine.

The meet-and-greet with Earnhardt was hands-down the best part of the trip, Royce said. But riding two laps in the pace car with Brett Bodine was a close second.

They were going 120 mph up against the wall at Daytona International Speedway.

Sheral said she thought the car was going to tip over at any moment. It was scary, she said.

Of course, Royce had a different opinion.

“It was awesome,” he said.

Royce talked about hanging out in the pits in Daytona and bumping fists with Carl Edwards. He met Bobby Labonte, Trevor Bayne and Joe Nemechek.

He spent time in the garage that housed Earnhardt’s car. He touched the racer’s gloves and helmet.

“Oh my gosh it was so special,” Sheral said.

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