Wednesday, February 18, 2009

8 years later, and it still hurts.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon with the 500 winding down there they were Mickey, Jr. and Sr. running 1,2,3. It was an amazing day. Michael Waltrip running out front, Dale Jr. pushing and Sr. blocking. DEI was going to come in 1st and 2nd and Dale was going to make sure that nobody was going to stop that from happening. Then came turn 4 on the last lap. Dale blocked the last time and his car went out of control head first into the outside wall and then slowing into the infield. DEI, his company just finished 1st and 2nd in the 500 and he never got to see it happen.

FOX TV cut away from the 500 to go to commercial right after Waltrip crossed the finish line. Most of us including me turned away from the TV that day. We had seen many wrecks at Daytona and Talladega that looked much worse than the one that we had just seen. Everyone knew that Dale was going to be ok. It was just another accident. He did what he needed to do to make sure that his team, his cars won the race. Then the unthinkable happened. There were a couple of glimpses of the black #3 sitting on the infield grass and people running to the car. The safety crews showed up but you really couldn’t tell that anything was wrong. Then it happened Mike Helton came on and said the most unbelievable thing that any NASCAR fan could have believed “NASCAR had lost Dale Earnhardt”.

To this day my skin still crawls when I see the replays of that day. Tears still well in my eyes to see pictures of Dale and Jr. together. The things that my mind thinks of when I hear Jr. talk about his dad. The respect that the entire organization that is NASCAR had for one man. Today is a day for all NASCAR fans to remember that we lost a legend on the track that day doing things his way. Not trying to win the race but trying to make sure that his team, his company, and his son had a day to remember. Still he never saw it happen and that is a crying shame.

To you Dale Earnhardt, we are forever in your debt as NASCAR fans. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for you and men like you that made this sport what it is today. I just hope that when you look down from heaven on Sunday afternoons and you see what has become of the sport that you gave everything to including your life that you are proud of what you see. God Bless you Intimidator!