Eddie Dickerson probably is the hottest item among Marylanders and Delawareans on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit these days.
Dickerson, from Milford, Del., is the crew chief for Rusty Wallace, and received Mechanic of the Race honors when Wallace finished second in the First Union 400 in North Wilkesboro, N.C., on April 12.
But Dickerson, 36, will be remembered by his peers as the man who wrecked a van carrying Darrell Waltrip a day before Waltrip was to leave for a race in Martinsville, Va.
Dickerson almost made headlines in a way he didn't want three years ago when he was the shop foreman for Waltrip. Dickerson said he was "goofing around" while driving Waltrip back from lunch in Charlotte, N.C., and turned over the van over when a tire blew out.
Even though Waltrip, who was sitting in the front seat, escaped injury, Dickerson said he can't escape the jokes from fellow NASCAR workers because Waltrip had a pizza in his lap and wound up wearing it instead of eating it.
"They still kid me about it," said Dickerson. "But Darrell took it well. He was bringing the pizza back to a member of the team who hadn't gone to lunch with us. There were six more mechanics in the van besides Darrell and me, and none of us was hurt. We all had seat belts on. We were a quarter-mile from the shop, and I was just goofing around when it happened."
However, that was one of the few light moments for Dickerson, who gained his current level of importance after meeting NASCAR driver Buddy Arrington in the parking lot at Dover Downs 18 years ago.
"Buddy was coming to Dover on a Thursday before a race, and I asked him how he was fixed for help that weekend," said Dickerson. "He said 'Like always. I don't have any.' "
Since meeting Arrington, Dickerson has done a little of everything on the Winston Cup tour. He drove in three Winston Cup races in 1980, finishing 11th and 14th in two of them, and has worked twice for Arrington and had stints with Terry Labonte, Harry Gant, Cale Yarborough, Waltrip and Wallace.