My Brief Encounter with a NASCAR Legend

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My story isn't filled with much in the way of a family background in motorsports. I came into NASCAR later in life as my family was more into football as I grew up. My experience with motorsports really began at the same time as my relationship to my husband.

We would often attend the NHRA drag races held at both Sears Point Raceway and Sacramento Raceway. In fact, my first date with him was in Sacramento, where I remember seeing my first drag race. I remember names like Joe Amato (Top Fuel), drag racing legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, John Force and Funny Car champion Kenny Bernstein to name a few. I was amazed at the speed that they reached in a short amount of time. It was crazy but somewhat intoxicating. To say the least, I became a fan of motorsports.

My husband and I continued our love of racing, branching off into the NASCAR scene. Back then I followed Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon while the husband stuck with his one and only Dale Earnhardt.

When NASCAR's Winston Cup finally came to Sears Point International Raceway, now known as Infineon Raceway, we had to go. It was in 1989. This is when the track originally stretched out 2.52 miles, which also included a 1/4 mile dragstrip. Then the Sprint Cup Series was known as the Winston Cup Series. Its first run at the Sonoma track was won by Ricky Rudd, with Rusty Wallace winning the pole position. Earnhardt came in at a respectable fourth place.

This was the first year that we took our young daughter, Chrissy. It was a day that is etched in our memories for so many reasons. Our first race as a family, our first NASCAR Race, Winston Cup;s first run at the track.

It was a hot summer day. We decided to enjoy something cold to cool down. We purchased our then 2-year-old daughter Chrissy a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Ice Cream bar. Big mistake. It melted before our eyes. Not only her face, her hair and her legs were covered in green. But this big mistake turned out to be a very memorable experience. Something that we now look back on like it was just yesterday.

It was at this point that a man, whom I didn't recognize but my husband obviously did, walked by us. He turned and smiled when he saw our daughter, whose face was green and red. I still remember what he said as he walked passed us, with a smile. "Now that's what it's all about." After he walked away, my husband asked, "Do you know who that was?" I of course didn't. When he informed me that it was Dale Earnhardt, I just about passed out.

The excitement in the air was indescribable, and very contagious to say the least. My husband and I still talk about that race to this day. It was the race that would really go down as the start of our love of NASCAR. It wasn't until 1995 that Dale Sr. finally won at the Sonoma track. Dale Sr. took the checkered flag from my then favorite driver, Mark Martin.

Although my experience personally with Dale Sr. was just a quick one, I will always remember it. It definitely etched a place in our minds and and our hearts. I remember the day he was taken from his family, friends and fans. As with many, I was home watching the race with loved ones. All of us just watched as it unfolded, not believing what we were being told.

As difficult as his death was to many, it has saved so many lives. With NASCAR finally implementing equipment regulations and new safety measures, the chance of losing another has been greatly decreased.

He is a legend now and forever. Someone that we'll always remember.
My Brief Encounter with a NASCAR Legend My Brief Encounter with a NASCAR Legend Reviewed by Lindi Bess on Thursday, March 03, 2011 Rating: 5