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'Intimidator' factors heavily into life of Greencastle man

April 13, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Dennis Bard has enshrined "The Intimidator."

Bard, 47, has dedicated a large room in his home on Buchanan Trail West to Dale Earnhardt, seven-time winner of NASCAR's Winston Cup Championship who is known to his fans as The Intimidator.

Like many collectors, Bard started out small, buying a few toy cars and other Earnhardt memorabilia. Then things got away from him.

A few years ago his wife, Vicki, suggested that he needed a separate room for his Earnhardt stuff, so he built one in his basement. It measures 14-by-16 feet and is so full that Bard said it's time to expand. "I got stuff I don't have room to display in here," he said.

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He has his eye on the TV/recreation room next to it. It's where you can find him just about every Sunday afternoon during race season, which now runs nearly year-round.

"I won't miss a race," Bard Said. "If I can't be here to watch it on television, then I listen it on the radio."

He said he goes to about two NASCAR races a year, usually to Richmond, Va., or Dover, Del., to see his idol in person. Bard has never met Earnhardt, but he has had a close encounter. "He was driving out of the racetrack in Dover in a car and I was standing about 10 feet away as he drove by," he said. "I waved to him."

Bard does have an Earnhardt-autographed pennant that his daughter, Marcie, waited for three hours at a race to get.

Bard cannot explain what it is about Earnhardt that has so grabbed his attention and devotion. "I just liked him from the beginning," he said.

Earnhardt earned his Intimidator nickname from his hard-driving, no-quarter racing style, Bard said. "He's tough and he drives by the seat of his pants."

He knows why he loves NASCAR.

"There's no bigger thrill than being at the race track when they take that green flag and 40 cars take off," he said.

Making up a big part of his collection are the die-cast 1/64th scale model race cars of NASCAR's top drivers. He has more than 360 of them, all tiny replicas of the real thing with their numbers, colors and sponsors' names emblazoned on them, along with the names of their drivers.

The cars, which take up the entire south wall of the room, date from 1991 through 1999, and he plans to start collecting 2000 models. All are in their original package and contain the trading cards that give personal and professional information on the drivers.

The east wall holds the Earnhardt models. He has all but a few, beginning with Earnhardt's first race car, a pink 1956 Ford called the K-2 that he drove on dirt tracks long before he won the right to ride on the NASCAR circuit. The black No. 3, Earnhardt's signature, shows up all over Bard's collection.

He has collected a whole fleet of model tractor-trailer trucks, or transporters, that haul the cars to the tracks. They ride on shelves high up along the ceiling in his trophy room.

More than 20 of the little rigs represent Earnhardt's trucks over the years, including one he values at $600 because it bears the driver's signature. He said he paid $12.95 for it new.

Most of what he buys is still in the original package because that adds to the value.

"I buy them in stores and at flea markets, but I don't buy anything that isn't in the original box," he said.

Catalogues tell him the value of the things he collects.

Bard's collection goes far beyond little cars and trucks. While most bear Earnhardt's name, NASCAR itself and the names of other drivers are prevalent everywhere in the room.

There is an Earnhardt-autographed screwdriver and wrench sets that Bard said anyone would be crazy to actually use. And that's just the beginning.

There are commemorative key chains, soda and beer cans and bottles, intact boxes of cereal, Earnhardt and NASCAR Barbie dolls, plates, flashlights, hats, T-shirts, gym bags, walkie-talkies, photographs, steins, shot glasses, knives, clocks, watches, baseballs, calendars, books and videos.

He has even started to craft Earnhardt commemorative wind chimes with the little metal cars. Several hang in his room. He doesn't sell them, "but a lot of my friends have them," he said.

His grandson, T.J., 9, is starting to follow in his granddad's footsteps with his own Earnhardt collection.

"I met Earnhardt's gas man once," T.J. said.

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