STARS REMEMBER EARNHARDT

Country music and NASCAR are close cousins, so it comes as no surprise that the death of race-car legend Dale Earnhardt has hit the music community particularly hard.

"Dale Earnhardt was what made NASCAR exciting for me. He was my favorite driver," said Travis Tritt after hearing about the fatal accident at the Daytona 500 this weekend. "I had the privilege of meeting him on several occasions and was honored to find out that Dale and his family were fans of my music.

"He told me that 'I'm Gonna Be Somebody' was one of his favorite songs. I told him that I only wished I could 'be somebody' as big to the music world as he was to racing."

Kix Brooks had more than just an appreciation of the legendary driver. He counted Dale among his close friends.

"I've just lost a good buddy," said Kix. "Our hearts go out to the family. It's just a really sad time."

Kix recalled a time when the two went out for a day of deep-sea fishing. "We were both worn out and all of our lines were up. A couple marlins cleared the boat in front of us and Dale had to throw all the lines back in.

"Those marlins are so hard to catch, I was tired and didn't want to fool with it, but Dale never would let an opportunity pass.

"And, wouldn't you know - we caught one! He had a gusto for living life like no one I've ever seen or ever will see again."

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