By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001
Andy Kinworthy remains a fan, too dedicated to forget Dale Earnhardt.
"I couldn't let my driver go out like that," the 37-year-old from St. Petersburg said last week.
Earnhardt, who died in a crash Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway, would have turned 50 today.
Compelled to do something for his favorite driver, Kinworthy organized a blood drive to honor the NASCAR legend known as "Intimidator."
The drive, with two Florida Blood Services buses, is at 1-5:30 p.m. today at Gandy Beach in St. Petersburg. "I don't even donate blood, but I'm going to be the first in line," Kinworthy said. "I'm planning on this taking place every year on his birthday."
Earnhardt won seven Winston Cup titles (tied with Richard Petty for most), 76 career races (sixth all-time) and the 1998 Daytona 500 before crashing his No. 3 Chevrolet in the fourth turn on the last lap of the season-opening event.
Kinworthy said today's memorial includes celebrations at times significant to Earnhardt's life: 3:07 p.m. and 7:03 p.m. for the driver's car number and seven championships, and 4:29 p.m. to recognize the month and day the driver was born in Kannapolis, N.C.
Kinworthy, who owns a Pontiac Grand Prix painted to copy one of Earnhardt's early cars, was one of an estimated 2,000 fans gathered the day after the accident at Gandy Beach to celebrate the driver's life.
"I only met him one time," Kinworthy said. "I kind of actually find it odd that I like the guy so much. I'm not even this tight with my dad."
NAPA AUTO PARTS 500: Although Jeff Gordon is starting 17th in the 43-car field at today's NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to call him the favorite. Gordon has won two of the first four Winston Cup races at the 2-mile oval and has led 287 laps.
"Those are the types of numbers we need at every track," Gordon said.
Born in Vallejo, Gordon loves running in his native state. He has won five of the past eight Winston Cup races in California, including three straight at Sears Point in Sonoma.
The three-time series champion is second in points, behind Dale Jarrett, with one win and five top-fives. He has led in eight of nine races this season.
-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.
TODAY ON TV/RADIO: NASCAR, NAPA Auto Parts 500, 2 p.m., Ch. 13, WQYK-AM 1010.