Best of Bake: 'American Sniper' widow discusses husband's affinity for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

(Note: As 2015 comes to an end, we're looking back at some of the top Shake and Bake stories of the year. The following was originally published on May 25.)

On hand Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway where she became the first woman to receive the track's annual Stonewall Jackson Award for demonstrating the highest standards of patriotism, the widow of well-known Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" Chris Kyle revealed a couple little-known facts about her heroic husband.

"When I first met Chris, I thought, 'OK, here's this redneck. Surely he likes NASCAR,'" Taya Kyle said. "I was surprised when he wasn't a big fan at the time, and he just said, 'I don't know. I just never got into it.'"

But everything changed when her husband attended one of NASCAR's military-appreciation events.

"He got to go behind the scenes and he saw the pit crew, and he thought they were such bad-asses because one of the guys broke his finger during the change and didn't even stop and just kept going," Kyle said. "Everything was so precise, and then he got to see the strategy behind the race and all that, and he was in love with NASCAR from then on. He was just like a ridiculous fan after that."

At that same event, the man who would go on to be recognized as the deadliest marksman in United States military history had the opportunity to meet driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Chris Kyle was a devoted fan of NASCAR's most popular driver from that day forward.

"Meeting Dale Jr. was really cool to him because there were some high-ranking officials who were in the tent, and he remembered Dale saying, 'You know, what? They can wait. I'm talking to these guys; these are guys on the ground,'" Taya said. "And he spent some time laughing with them and talking with them, and that really endeared him to Chris.

"That humility and putting off the generals and higher-ups just to talk to the guys serving was really cool. He was just really supportive of Junior because of his, honestly, his humility."

Chris, who was killed by a troubled veteran at a Texas shooting range in February 2013, authored the 2012 bestseller on which Clint Eastwood's 2014 biographical war drama film, American Sniper, was based.

After her husband's death, Taya founded the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, which she promotes at every opportunity including numerous appearances and speaking engagements.

"The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation is about honoring God, honoring this country, by serving," she said. "Our particular mission is unique in that we are trying to help the marriages of first responders and veterans. They both are facing things that we will never see. First responders, though, don't really get the recognition they should."