10 Years

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It doesn't seem like it’s been 10 years since Feb. 18, 2001, the day we lost Dale Earnhardt. For some fans, that day changed them a lot. Being a little kid and not fully understanding what death was changed me as well. What started out as a great day filled with promise ended in tears shed.

Many things happened on that day: I vowed two things and I planned to stick to them. My first vow was never to watch NASCAR again - that vow proved to be hard. And then there was vow number 2: I vowed never to like another Earnhardt again. I was serious about that and nothing would change my mind.

When you grow up in a NASCAR household, it’s hard to escape it - every Sunday I would hear it. But it wasn’t the same. I kept looking for that black No. 3, but it was no use - he was gone.

Throughout the years my love for NASCAR would slip away. I had no driver I’d root for and I saw no point in watching it. But I guess that saying is true:

“Racing - they can’t put it in you, and they can’t take it out, it’s in your blood.”

Like I said, I couldn’t ever fully escape NASCAR, having a Jeff Gordon fan for an uncle and my grandpa who just loved racing. NASCAR was always there in my life, even though I didn’t want it.

In 2007 my dad died. I was 14 years old and to me my life was over. There was no point in going on. I was lost; I didn’t talk about it and kept it all in. That wasn’t a good thing, keeping that pain in, and it proved to affect me in more ways than one. Sometimes it's funny how something you say you’ll never like can save you and how a driver could change you.

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Dale Junior was that driver. I saw him talking about his dad; I heard him say how he kept the pain of his dad’s death in and it wasn’t good. That alone opened my eyes in so many ways, and I remembered how his dad's death was a heavy blow to us and he never gave up or stopped. And here I was giving up and not even living, and I knew somewhere deep down my dad wouldn’t have liked that.

So here I am 10 years later, watching NASCAR as if it never left me. Here I am rooting for Dale Junior, the driver I said I’d never root for. A death took me away from this sport, but another death brought me back. I sometimes wonder how I could ever say goodbye to this sport - nothing is like NASCAR.

It's been 10 years since I lost my hero that fateful day, and through those 10 years my life has changed for better and for worse. But one thing never changed, and never will change: my love for NASCAR and my love for the name Earnhardt. I may have only been 9 years old that fateful day, but that didn't matter; no matter the age, we all banded together, fans of all mourned the loss of Dale.

I’ll never forget that black No. 3, but I thank him for having such a great son in Junior, who helped me in a lot of ways and who I’m proud to call my favorite driver.
10 Years 10 Years Reviewed by Lacy Page on Monday, February 14, 2011 Rating: 5