I was recently able to connect with Danny “Chocolate” Myers” for this very interesting and in depth conversation. For the new NASCAR fans Chocolate Myers may be known for his radio show on Sirius/XM Radio, “Tradin’ Paint”. For the older NASCAR race fans, they will remember him as “Gasman Choc” on the Richard Childress Racing “Flying Aces”. The Flying Aces was the nickname for the pit crew that pitted the car driven by Dale Earnhardt, Sr. during his golden days with Richard Childress Racing. As you read this interview I hope that it adds a little knowledge about Chocolate Myers, Richard Childress, RCR and NASCAR history that you may not have known before.
WorkingOnMyRedneck: To many of the older and longtime NASCAR fans, which would includes this writer, you may be recognized as one of Richard Childress Racing’s “Flying Aces” and Dale Earnhardt. Sr’s gasman. Can you tell us how you first got involved in NASCAR?
Chocolate Myers: My story is kind of a unique story. My dad, Bobby Myers, was one of the early pioneers in the sport. My dad lost his life at Darlington in 1957 driving a race car for Richard Petty’s dad, Lee Petty. Growing up in Winston-Salem, not very far from Bowman Gray Stadium, even after my dad lost his life, we would go to the races at Bowman Gray Stadium every Saturday night during the season. So for me, my dad was the early pioneer in the sport.
WOMR: Can you talk about how and when your relationship with Richard Childress started?
CM: It was at Bowman Gray Stadium where I met Richard Childress. We sold popcorn and programs in the grandstands every week as kids. When we got old enough we got us an old race car and that is kind of how we started in racing. I have known Richard Childress since we were teenagers. As a matter of fact, Richard mentioned the other day that before we were racing at Bowman Gray Stadium we had the club, The Red Shield Boys Club, there in Winston-Salem. It is kind of ironic because it was located just right up the street from Bowman Gray Stadium on Stadium Drive. So I have known Richard Childress about all of my life!
WOMR: Then how did you get involved with his race team as a crewmember?
CM: Well it is kind of funny, and I have laughed about this when people ask my how long have I worked for Richard. I tell people that I started working for him in 1969 and I started getting paid in 1983! Back in those days the independent guy, the upstarts like Richard, had a race car and that was about it. In 1969 NASCAR started a new division, the Grand American Division, made up of Mustangs and Camaros. He saw me one day early in 1969 and said ” hey what are you doing?” My answer was nothing, why? He then asked me if I wanted to go to Daytona with him? So I went with on down to Daytona to race that old Camaro. Richard raced that day and heck we thought we were rich because of all the free stuff that they gave us, like STP, engine oil products and stuff like that. So we left Daytona after that race in an old borrowed truck that was a piece of junk. We used every drop of oil and every can of STP products that they gave us in order to get back home! The good thing is that it poured down rain the whole way back home. I say it was a good thing, because we would have to stop quite often and scoop rain water out of the side ditch and pour it in the radiator to get the motor to cool down ! Later that year we did the same thing, we went to Richmond to race. Going onto the race track there at Richmond the truck motor blew up. This was a different truck than the one we had at Daytona. Richard had to be back at work the next day after the race or he would lose his job. So he asked me to stay with the truck and keep an eye on it, and I agreed. So he got a ride home from Richmond, went to work, borrowed another truck, and returned to pick up the one that I was there with. They loaded up the broken down truck with the race car on the back of this truck and spent all night heading back home! So, I helped him off and on during those years. It was in 1983, while watching a race, that I decided this was what I wanted to do.
So, I went up to see Junior Johnson because I knew he was going to start two new teams with Budweiser as their sponsor and Neil (Bonnett) and Darrell (Waltrip) as the drivers. I knew Junior and those guys from the days that I was at Bowman Gray Stadium. With me being part of the Myers Boys, a lot of guys remembered who I was. For twenty some years they had the Myers Brothers Memorial Race that was named after my dad and my uncle. I went to see Junior Johnson to ask him about a job and he said that he had just about everybody that he needed. You ought to go see Childress, he is starting a race team and I think that he is going to be something one day!
I went to see Richard and he had no intentions of hiring me to work on the race cars. But, he had something that he needed done and I would work for him during the day and then go to the race shop to see if there was anything that needed to be done there. That was getting my foot in the door. Then later in 1983 I went to Riverside, CA with the team and I was there at Martinsville with Ricky Rudd when he won the second race for RCR. So I have been there with RCR for all of them except the very first win.
WOMR: At the championship banquet, at the end of the season, NASCAR gives out an award called “The Myers Brothers Award”. This award is given out to the person, corporation, or entity that has the greatest positive impact on the sport for that year. Can you explain what your connection with this award may be?
CM: That award is named after my dad, Bobby Myers, and my uncle Billy Myers, who were early pioneers of the sport. I have nothing to do with who receives the award. But I do really like to know who gets this award each year! This award goes to someone who has really done a lot for this sport. NASCAR has been giving out this award since 1958. As I said, my dad lost his life late in 1957. My uncle Billy passed away in 1958 while racing at Bowman Gray Stadium. Later that year is when the Myers Brothers Award was started in honor of my dad and uncle. Both of them, my dad Bobby and my uncle Billy, were “the thing” at Bowman Gray Stadium! This award is a big deal to me.
WOMR: In all your years with RCR what would be your most memorable highlight with the No. 3 race team?
CM: I am glad that you asked that question because I have a great answer for you. To be there for so many years, we did some great things with all the wins and the championships. This list goes on and on and on. I have told this story before, but I will share this story again. Growing up without a dad is pretty tough on anybody! Growing up we didn’t have much and when my daddy died we moved in with my grandmother and another uncle. It was tough, but we made it. If we didn’t have a garden and a pear tree across the street we would have starved to death! We were a good family and we were raised up right. But growing up in a racing family and dreaming about Darlington was big. Now growing up as the son of a race car driver, everyone asked you the same question, when you grow up are you going to be a race car driver like your daddy? I was probably asked that question a million times, and I always thought that I would do that. To drive a race car and not have any luck at it was nobody’s fault but my own. But to go to Darlington, to win the Southern 500 and to stand in Victory Lane was pretty dang emotional to me! The Southern 500 at Darlington was pretty special for me. (Editor’s note: Darlington was where Chocolate’s dad lost his life)
WOMR: After the loss of Dale Sr., Richard Childress hired Kevin Harvick and changes the car number to 29. What was you most memorable moment with that race team?
CM; Well, it had to be the win in Atlanta over Jeff Gordon. We were totally upside down. We were devastated. We had lost our best friend, our hero, the guy that we were making a living with. We were all having a tough time! When I say we were all having a tough time, maybe some were having a tougher time than others. For those of use that had been there the whole time and had spent a lot of time with Dale, it was tough. To go to Atlanta and to win on the last lap with Harvick, that is when we knew that we were going to be ok. That was just one of those magical days when you look back and think about it. When you win a race and the entire crowd is silent, when Richard Childress can’t talk, when Darrell Waltrip can’t talk and has a tear in his eye, that was special! It was an unbelievable year for RCR and Harvick.
WOMR; Now that you have moved on from “Gasman Choc” to being a radio talk show host at Sirius Radio, what is your relationship with Richard Childress and RCR?
CM; I’ve got the coolest thing in the world. I am still at the Richard Childress race shop, which ironically is the same race shop that we raced Dale (Sr) out of. The museum is the old race shop. We put it back to the original condition the best that we could. We have 50 some cars there. My radio show and office is in there as well. I get up in the morning, go to the museum which is on the same property as the RCR race shop and ECR (Earnhardt-Childress engines). I do the radio show between 11am and 3pm there as well. My life is pretty dang good!
WOMR; I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you what your relationship with Dale Sr. was like?
CM; That is a great question. Man, in the beginning it was awesome. It was awesome not just with Dale, but for the whole crew. For the longest time there was not a lot of money in racing, it was tough. It was not uncommon for all of us to load up in the van and meet at a Holiday Inn near the race track. I am not talking about a fancy hotel. I am talking about the kind of a hotel now that you wouldn’t stay in! When things got pretty good Richard got an airplane, just one airplane. So every Thursday afternoon Richard, Dale, Teresa, myself, Will, Danny, and everybody would load up on that airplane and fly to the race track. Being on that airplane was a hoot and we were cutting up, fighting, playing cards and having a great time. Everyone got to know everybody very well. You knew when someone was having a bad time or great times. You became very tight and very good friends. Even more than good friends, maybe like brothers. I tell people that maybe we became successful not because we all liked each other, but because we all loved each other! We did this for a long time. Then things got really better and the money got a whole lot better, the relationships changed. Richard had his plane and Dale had his own plane, so we were spending less time together than before. But we were still spending time at the track together. We were close. We did some things outside the race track. From the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s it was awesome, because it was before the motor coach lot and before everyone had their own airplanes. During that time we spent a whole of time together. Those times were awesome and none of them bad. It was from Thursday morning til Sunday night you were with the crew.
The fact of the matter was that back in those day you never had any time off! I have joked about it saying that there were three kinds of employees in racing- part-time, full-time and all-the-time. We were the all the time bunch!
WOMR: What led to your decision to retire?
CM: Well, there was a couple of things. One was my age. I was getting too old and to a point where being gone every week was getting to me. We were in a rebuilding process at RCR, moving into a new building, we were adding new teams, we were moving people around and it was just a good opportunity for me to go. I thought to myself that I was going to do this the rest of this year and then I am going to step away. I have no regrets whatsoever! One reason why I have no regrets is that Sirius/XM Radio gave me the opportunity to do two things. I get to stay at the Richard Childress museum and I also get to talk to the NASCAR race fans. Doing the Sirius /XM Radio is pretty special.
WOMR; What you are saying is that your life did not change a whole lot and you get to stay home more?
CM; Yeah, I get to stay home more. I do go to about 10 races a year. We go to Daytona every year and take one of my dad’s old race cars. I have two of my dad’s race cars and we take one of them down to Daytona to show off, do the beach parade, haul it around and have a good time with that stuff.
WOMR; I saw some of the photos that you wife took at Dale Earnhardt. Jr’s wedding. What kind of relationship do you have with him?
CM; You know I love to tell people that I am a Dale Jr. fan, not because he is Dale Earnhardt Sr’s son, but because he is a kid that I got to see grow up in the NASCAR garage. Are we buddies or buddy around, no. Do we speak to each other when we are in the same place, heck yeah. It was so special to me that he invited me and my wife to his wedding! I have never worked with or for him, but he has so much respect for this sport, the people in this sport and the people around this sport. It was just real special to be invited to his wedding. Dale Jr. is the real deal! You ask him a question and you get the answer! You do not get some politically correct BS, you get what he is thinking. I have a lot of respect for him.
WOMR: Now we are going to get to the fun part of the interview! I want to get some of your opinions on 2017. Who do you think will win the Rookie of The Year?
CM: I am not totally familiar with the rookies in the Truck Series. But I will say that anybody driving for Kyle Busch has a chance at winning that.
WOMR: Who do you think may win the Truck Series championship?
CM: Boy I really enjoyed that deal where you had Johnny Sauter being able to do it. I would like to see Johnny Sauter back it up again. He is a the real deal. It meant a lot to him. I have known him and his family for a long time and I would like to see him repeat.
WOMR: Who do you think may wind up as the NXS champion?
CM: Once again I like Daniel Hemric and he is one of our guys (RCR). I would like to see Hemric step up to the plate and get the job done there.
WOMR; How about the 2017 Cup champion, who is your choice?
CM; I would like to see one of the young guys step up to the plate. We have Chase (Elliott), Blaney (Ryan), and now Ty and Austin (Dillion), Kyle Larson, and now you got Erik Jones and Suarez coming in. If you can’t find a young guy in the Cup Series to pull for, then you are in bad shape! We got plenty of them.
WOMR; If you had never gotten into NASCAR, been a part of the famous Richard Childress Racing’s “Flying Aces”, what would Chocolate Myers have done to make a living?
CM: Oh my gosh! You know I tried my hand at everything and I was a pretty dang good mechanic at a Chevrolet dealership. I don’t know if I would have ended up there. I was also a guy that was not really good at staying out of trouble! The best thing that has happened to me is my lovely wife Caron!
WOMR: Of all the things that you have done in your life, what are you most proud of?
CM: I got to go over to the combat zone to meet the troops. I flew with the Tennessee Guard, in a tanker plane, into Ramstein AB, Germany, to NAS Sigonella, Sicily and on into Bosnia. To go meet the troops, to talk to them and to see what they really were doing was quite a honor for me.
I hope that this interview has given our readers an insight into Danny “Chocolate” Myers. More importantly the new or casual NASCAR fans may not have had any idea of the historical ties to the early days of this sport that Chocolate has, and now they can fill in those areas. Let me add that Chocolate is the real deal, a very nice man that gives freely of his time, as well as the fact that he has great stories to tell about this sport!
And as the late Paul Harvey would conclude his radio broadcast, “now you know the rest of the story”!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!