Nestled among the photos of cars, tires and speedways in NASCAR Illustrated is one of Johnny C. Cozart, a pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church, Mooresville, N.C. (at right). In the May issue, Cozart, who was Dale Earnhardt’s pastor for 16 years, described the racing icon as a generous man who gave to his church and community.
Earnhardt died on the last lap of the Daytona [Fla.] 500 in 2001. Dale, the movie about his life and narrated by Paul Newman, was released this year.
“On the oval, he was a heck of a racer who gave us joy and pleasure. In everyday life, he was a caring, fun-loving giant,” Cozart told NASCAR Illustrated. “I thank God for the opportunity to travel down the road of life as his friend and pastor. I’m no longer intimidated by anyone because of him.”
Cozart tells about Earnhardt buzzing the church in his helicopter when his daughter, Taylor, was in Bible school. “I can still see him leaning out, getting the kids excited. Later, when he came to pick up Taylor, the kids had made these little clay pots. He stayed until 9:30 that night signing pots. He was the last one to leave.”
Earnhardt attended church when he was able, and was a regular December usher. One Christmas Eve he was nervous and tentative about those duties. “He could drive 200 mph, but he was scared to usher,” Cozart said.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers