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NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. and making wishes come true

April 22, 2010 | 12:46 pm

Never mind that Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won a race in nearly two years. NASCAR's most popular driver is about to reach a notable milestone regardless.

For the 200th time, Earnhardt plans to spend part of his day with a child who has a life-threatening medical condition and whose one wish was to meet the driver, a meeting arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

It’s a mark only a handful of sports figures has reached and one of the others is Earnhardt’s teammate, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, who met his 200th Make-A-Wish Foundation child two years ago.

Sports fans and the media spend so much time focused on the failures and frailties of athletes – all of which make news, after all – that it’s sometimes easy to overlook those moments when star players have a positive influence.

But one can’t overestimate the effect of those moments. Just check the reactions of these kids when they met Gordon, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

“A lot of times the Make-A-Wish meeting is the best part of the whole weekend,” said Earnhardt, whose 200th granted wish is scheduled next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway during NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race weekend.

“It’s amazing that when you talk to the kids and learn about their lives, you learn a lot about yourself as well," he said in a statement. "To meet these kids and [their] families is a privilege.”

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. signs autographs April 9 at Phoenix International Raceway. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images