Remembering Dale Earnhardt along with the staff of Skirts and Scuffs

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If you’re a NASCAR fan, you know what today is. For us, it’s the “Where were you when…?” moment of our fandom, the anniversary of the day “we lost Dale Earnhardt.”

Americans as a nation had that JFK moment. Music fans have John Lennon or Michael Jackson. In the world of NASCAR the list is painfully long: Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, Neil Bonnett, Adam Petty…and though he didn’t drive a stock car, NASCAR fans have claimed Dan Wheldon’s death as their tragedy, too.

Then there’s Earnhardt. When he was alive, he was larger than life, and in death he’s even larger, if that’s possible.  His already legendary successes became epic. People who previously hated him became fans posthumously and those who were fans mourned him with the same intensity that they loved him.

But it’s the 11th anniversary of that fatal crash, and while eleven years barely begins to dull the pain from the passing of someone so many people considered to be a part of their lives, it’s difficult to relive that tragic event in excruciating detail every year.  There are only so many viewpoints from which one can examine the events of February 18, 2001, only so many accolades that can be accorded before they become rote and diminish the enormity of the event.

With great respect to Dale Earnhardt’s family, friends, and fans, the staff of Skirts and Scuffs points to the coverage the site published last year for the tenth anniversary of the day NASCAR changed forever.

Lacy Keyser, was just eight years old in February 2001, but the effects of that day touched her life in an unexpected way several years later when the death of her father left her lost. Read Lacy’s story here, originally published Feb. 14, 2011.

Whitney Richards, only two years older than Lacy, recalls Earnhardt fondly because she associates him with her grandfather, who sparked her love of NASCAR. Read Whitney’s Feb. 15, 2011 story here.

Amanda Bradeen admits to not being an Earnhardt fan, but acknowledges the importance of  his contributions in this piece from Feb. 15, 2011

Unique Hiram, Skirts and Scuffs editor and published poet honored Earnhard in 2008 with this poem, published Feb, 16, 2011.

Amanda Ebersole, Skirts and Scuffs editor, launched her “In the Rearview Mirror” column with a look at the life of Ralph Dale Earnhard Sr,  which ran Feb. 16, 2011.

Genevieve Cadorette associates Dale Earnhardt with her father, who was a true fan of the "Man in Black." Read her Feb. 18, 2011 story here.

Amy McHargue, recently named IndyCar correspondent for Skirts and Scuffs, recalls how her birthday, Feb. 18th, went from celebration to grief with news of the death of “her driver.”  Read Amy’s memories here, published on her birthday in 2011.

I wasn’t on staff with Skirts and Scuffs for the tenth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death, so I’ll say my piece here.

It was hard to watch the tributes, to hear the commentary about the anniversary, the wreck, the aftermath. It hurt too much. I was still actively grieving the sudden, unexpected death of my husband in late Oct. 2009. Tex, who bucked trends and convention as a matter of principle, was a fan of both Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, and introduced me to NASCAR in 1997. I didn’t watch a full race until Rockingham, the 2nd race of the 1998 season and the first race after Earnhardt finally captured his white whale by winning the Daytona 500.

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My most vivid memories of Dale Earnhardt Sr. are of him rattling Texas Terry Labonte’s cage at Bristol in 1999. As a Texan, I stood in solidarity with Labonte and was angry with Earnhardt for a long time after that race. I was in awe of his mastery of the draft and his penchant for leading plate races like the Pied Piper, waving at people to get in line with him and getting frustrated when he didn’t.  Four of his last six wins were in plate races, the last three coming at what was then my favorite track, Talladega.  My husband loved him, and I respected his talent.

I also remember vividly that huge hug Dale Earnhardt Jr. got from his daddy in Victory Lane. I'm fighting tears as I write this because I can imagine how special that memory is to Dale Jr., and because my own father just passed last September, so those kinds of parent-child moments are dear to my heart.

I won’t relive the horrible moments of that day here. They’ve been recounted often enough. While I cried over his death, it didn't personally affect me as much as the death of Adam Petty did.

Tex and I kept watching NASCAR after Earnhardt’s death, and I paid especially close attention to the safety measures that were explored and implemented afterward. I've always been interested in the technical aspects of the sport, so those details caught my attention. I believe that the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. saved drivers’ lives. The on-track deaths of Kenny Irwin Jr., Tony Roper and Adam Petty in 2000, while tragic and heartbreaking, didn’t have the impact that the death of an icon did.

As many lives as he touched during his life, Dale Earnhardt has affected just as many, if not more, with his death.
Remembering Dale Earnhardt along with the staff of Skirts and Scuffs Remembering Dale Earnhardt along with the staff of Skirts and Scuffs Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Saturday, February 18, 2012 Rating: 5