In the years since his death in the 2001 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Sr. has become probably the most well-respected driver in American racing. The Intimidator inspired a generation of NASCAR fans, and people continue to pay tribute by throwing his livery on all sorts of stuff, including this Tesla Model 3.
Earnhardt Sr.’s wreck sparked a safety revolution in racing, but beyond that, he also inspired millions of people and even became a meme: Raise hell and praise Dale! Slate claims Sr.’s meme status elevated him to Sainthood among enthusiasts.
And that’s how we got here, with the Tesla “Model 3 For Dale,” a play on the common “three for Dale” joke and hashtag.
The car is a project of Dylan Sinnott, a self-described “washed-up gamer,” who said he was looking for something that would inspire people, something that would be “different” when considering his next project car, and he landed on the GM Goodwrench Tesla. Given that this is a Tesla on the internet, there is an announcement video for the project:
Sinnott, a 27 year-old graduate of computer science and marketing who lives in the “shadow of the Speedway” in Charlotte, NC, wanted a marketing project to focus on as a change of pace from his regular IT consulting jobs, he told Jalopnik. One day his girlfriend mentioned the Model 3 over dinner, and he instinctively joked “three for Dale?” He says the lightbulb immediately clicked with the Tesla Model 3.
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“I thought, ‘I could probably get the car for free if I get enough sponsors, if I do it NASCAR style.’ On [Dale Sr.’s] car back in the day, he would have anywhere from 20 to 40 sponsors, and realistically I could probably get it,” Sinnott told Jalopnik.
“I created a doc and costed out everything. Obviously I had to go with the max spec, trying to be fast. I mapped out the cost projections, how much the taxes and fees, wheels and tires, getting it wrapped, tinted, ceramic coated, and all that stuff. The number we landed on after all that was $73,590,” Sinnott told me over the phone.
“So then I mapped out how much sponsorship would be needed, and I decided to sell different regions of the car. I was trying to make sure I wasn’t using any copyrighted logos because I didn’t want to be sued, obviously.”
Sinnott and his friends helping him with the project wanted to start Jan. 1, “so I had to work with Tesla on that. At the end of the day, some of the companies overpaid. Tesla—I don’t know if they illicitly game me a discount or wrote a chunk of it off, but my total ended up being about 10-to-15 grand less expensive than what it was initially supposed to be,” Sinnott said.
He claims he waited until he had 100 percent of the sponsorship money to make his pitch a little more serious, as he would be able to buy the car in cash. He explained the idea to the Tesla sales team at his local store in Charlotte, and was concerned about getting a Model 3 Performance model by the end of the year.
Due to the rush, Tesla managed to arrange delivery of a “stealth” Performance model, which is mechanically the same as a regular Performance Model 3 but without the performance tires and no chrome pedals. “I didn’t want the performance tires anyway, because I didn’t want low-profile tires because I thought that would look funny,” Sinnott told me. (Wise choice.)
Sinnott says the extra money from some of the sponsors opened up free spots, which allowed him to get permission from other companies to fill the spaces with their logos to try and match the original car as closely as possible, even if the companies weren’t paying. He says they checked with the paying sponsors to make sure that was good, and everything worked out.
He took delivery of the Tesla on Dec. 3, and had it back from the wrap shop, by Dec. 19. So far, he’s only driven about 1,000 miles in it. He also wrapped the interior piano black trim with a gunmetal cover “to avoid fingerprints,” but otherwise plans to keep the car as stock as possible.
A budget sheet shown to Jalopnik by Sinnot outlined the value and status of each individual sponsor. Sunsational Tint in Charlotte, NC confirmed the arrangement with Sinnot, and Jalopnik also reached out to Bojangles, Cookout, and 3M for confirmation but have yet to hear back.
I pushed him on the irony of a GM livery on a Tesla, given Chevy has its own EV and Tesla doesn’t race in NASCAR. “I think the GM livery is ironic to a degree. When I think of NASCAR I think of loud, obnoxious, and fast-ass cars, but then when I think of Tesla, I think they’re the exact opposite of being ‘Intimidating,’ which is kind of funny,” he said.
“But when I mocked it up it looked cool. I think it’s something NASCAR would find cool, and that Tesla would find cool. I think it also bridges the gap between those two audiences.”
“For me, as a NASCAR fan, it’s been hard for the last couple of years. I think rallycross, F1, Forumla E, are all getting more exciting, where unfortunately I think NASCAR is getting less exciting.” Sinnott is accepting of the recently announced hybrid NASCAR plans, but also thinks they should go ahead and push for full electric, naming Tesla and Ford, with the new Mach-E, as two American companies he’d like to see in the race.
“One thing the South does really well is being patriotic, and as weird as it is, I feel like Tesla is one of those companies where people don’t recognize it’s an American company like GM and Ford.”
Sinnott wrapped up our call with a hope that the Model 3 For Dale project inspires other people to get creative with their project cars. If there’s something they want to do, he wants to show them many companies are willing to help if you can find a way to pitch it right. While he’s not making a descriptive how-to guide on exactly what he did, he does want to show people that it never hurts to ask.
Sinnott has plans to take the car to major local events in North Carolina, and hit the drag strip with it. He’s also trying to work with NASCAR to show off his Tesla at this year’s Daytona 500, and has plans for more trips and more videos later in the year, so be on the lookout.
You can follow Sinnot on Reddit and Twitter, and the a video on the Strange Garage YouTube channel should go up next week that will go into more detail about how he raised sponsors for the car.