04/21/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
Country star Travis Tritt has had a black Sam Bass guitar with NASCAR champ Dale Earnhardt's likeness on the front for just about a year now, but the musician never intended to play it -- until now, reports the Associated Press. Last week, he decided to begin each performance of his tour by strapping on the guitar which was a gift from a fan) and singing a song in memory of Earnhardt. Tritt, 38, has also reworked the lyrics to his opening number, "Put Some Drive in Your Country" to include the line, "I miss Dale Earnhardt; I wish he was still alive." Earnhardt died instantly of head injuries on Feb. 18 in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500. "I met Dale years ago when he called me to tell me that my song 'I'm Going to Be Someone' was a huge inspiration to both him and his son," says Tritt.