Monday, April 29, 2013

Why I Love NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt By: Chief 187™

Credit: Darryl W. Moran Photography
If there is one driver who defines NASCAR for me, one driver who encapsulates the drama, excitement, competition, and energy of America’s greatest racing series, it would have to be Dale Earnhardt.

Earnhardt was the reason I stayed in NASCAR once I arrived. He was already a champion when I tuned in to the season finale at Atlanta in 1990, a fact I did not know at the time. Pre-race news and interviews told me that Earnhardt had to accomplish a lot within the race to capture the championship – he was, to me, the underdog.

Of course time and history taught me perspective about that race, but I didn't need that at the time. By the time the checkered flag fell and Earnhardt hoisted the Winston Cup in victory, I was an entrenched fan regardless of what led up to that triumph.

Whereas other drivers have loyal fans, endless stories, and great respect for their drivers, Earnhardt fans are a breed unto themselves. Vast in numbers, devoted to a fault, and cohesive in their fandom to the end, they're legion in the world of NASCAR.

Some who don’t follow NASCAR do not understand my loyalty to a man who died over a dozen years ago. Devotion to a racecar driver who was blatantly Southern, unabashedly fierce, driven, and determined, seems foreign to my Yankee friends who aren’t NASCAR fans and never experienced the likes of Earnhardt.

But once you’ve experienced Earnhardt he’s with you forever. He seeped into your soul, raced through your blood, and won your heart. He had supporters and detractors and that never changed after his death. But Earnhardt’s presence was grand.

On this day, which would have been Dale Earnhardt’s 62nd birthday, I have the great opportunity to share why I not only love NASCAR, but Earnhardt himself.
Credit: Darryl W. Moran Photography

From his characteristic mustache, grin, and eyes to his magnanimous reputation, from his love story with his last wife to his joyful exuberance with his children, Earnhardt was both Everyman and The Man.

In addition to being a champion racecar driver, he was an avid good ole boy hunter, a responsible farm owner who was more comfortable in his work jeans or driver’s suit than any other clothing. He was a man who loved to joke and laugh, and as such, people related to Earnhardt.

I loved to watch him race, loved to watch his pre- and post-race interviews, and loved to wear his gear. Once we lost Dale I had to walk away from the sport, regroup as it were. It took years and the realization that walking away only hurt more to bring me back. At least in the NASCAR community – the NASCAR family – I was able to heal and remember Earnhardt with gladness in my heart.

And there is gladness. Many I work with nowadays were too young to remember Earnhardt on the track. Of course, they know who he was, but had no first-hand experiences watching Earnhardt race. That saddens me.

By writing about Earnhardt I feel we keep his inner core alive. We feed the souls of those left hungry for word of their driver, their hero, their friend. My brethren and I connect over Earnhardt stories. We grow closer through our admiration and respect of Earnhardt in these years since his passing.

Earnhardt will live through the generations as a legend. He earned the right.

The myriad reasons I love NASCAR are varied but can all be traced back to one man – Earnhardt. Every notion I have, every comparison I make, and every memory I hold leads back, to some degree, to Earnhardt. I make no apologies for this. He deeply influenced me and inspired me endlessly.

I’m so happy I found my way back to NASCAR. I enjoy the sport, root for the drivers, and enjoy the NASCAR family of which I have become a part. But not for one moment do I forget that the reason I am here, the reason I stay, and the reason I write; it is all because of Earnhardt.

Dale Earnhardt is the reason why I love NASCAR.


Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.





5 comments :

Being in my 50s I remember the time before Dale Earnhardt made his presence known in Nascar Cup racing. It didn't take him long to make it known that he was there to win, and he would do just about anything to achieve that goal. He got his racing 'chops' from his father, Ralph Earnhardt, who raised his family by the mantra; 'If you don't win, you don't eat'. It seems that young Dale had those words emblazened in the back of his mind throughout his career. No matter how many championships he won, he still had the fire burning inside him to win. He was meticulous in his knowledge of drafting, as well as driving a racecar. It has often been said that "he can see the air", referring to his drafting ability and his domination of restrictor plate tracks.

Together with his on-track abilities, Dale also possessed a very strong sense of humility. He would donate his time and money to charity, often asking that his name NOT be mentioned. He took the time to school younger drivers, one being Jeff Gordon, even though it meant Jeff would use those lessons to outrace Dale on a number of occasions. Dale gave his time unselfishly, and his fans rewarded him with an unwavering devotion. I am one of those fans, and after his death it took me years to come back to Nascar. If it wasn't for his son, Dale Jr., I likely would not have come back. In my mind, racing was not exciting unless Dale Sr. was on the track. He personally made Nascar a thriving industry. He was the first to think of Merchandising to sell souvenirs of their favorite drivers to fans. His iconic #3 would be seen everywhere at Nascar races; in the parking lots and in the infield on flags, hats, license plates, coats/jackets, T-shirts, etc. Dale took racing to the next level.

In a small way I still mourn the passing of The Intimidator. I keep hoping that one Sunday I will wake up and he'll be riding around the track in the back of a pickup after driver introductions, just like he used to. I long for his black #3 to be running in front at Daytona and Talledegga like the old days. I miss hearing the Nascar commentators tell stories about him...his practical jokes, his larger-than-life persona, his humanitarianism, and most of all, his reputation amongst all the other drivers, owners, and those involved in Nascar.

Love him or hate him, he was the most respected driver in Nascar history. Every driver that ever participated in the same race as Dale Earnhardt considered it his worst nightmare to have the black #3 Chevy in their rear-view mirror. He was a legend, even before his passing. He may not have broken Richard Petty's 8 championship record, but I would venture to say that his popularity is/was larger than any other driver in history, and his legend far transcends the sport.

Happy Birthday to Dale Earnhardt, "The Intimidator", The Legend, The Greatest, and thank you for your time on Earth. We enjoyed every minute of it!

Gary
Lifelong #3 fan

Amen to everything you wrote above and as a long time fan of Nascar it was Dale Sr. that drawn me to the sport and I have to say that with all the races I have gone to whether Dale won or not it was his racing techniques and the greatness in which he has earned the right to be The Intimidator and I will always have a special place in my heart for Dale and when I go to races now I still tear up when I see his trailer that still sells his racing things and I can tell you this it used to be a long wait when he was alive and still a long wait to purchase anything now. I love Nascar and I truley miss Dale! I still go and have been a Dale Jr. fan through thick and thin and he is a force to be reckoned with on any track.(Dale taught Jr. well) Lisa -3 forever!!

NASCAR for me is equivalent to Dale Earnhardt. He's the prime reason for why I love this sport. His persona defines what a real motorsport icon should be. He himself was not educated enough but still he managed to hold on deals after deals in the ever so competitive field of sports just because of the sheer amount of guts and skills that he had earn all his life. Earnhardt was and will be the role model of many motorsports generations to come who would not be lucky to see his magical powers live but will gain knowledge and lessons from his vast pool of experience nonetheless.
#missyou #respect #forzaJr.

It was a huge loss to those of us who adored the driver of that famous black no 3 - NASCAR will never be the same without Dale Earnhardt Sr - he did so much for so many and his son is doing the same - R.I.P. Hero -

I say Amen to the above comments...The man has become a legon in this sports..I get the "why do u waqnt to watch them drive in cycles for 3-4hrs...sure beats watching some sports that bounce a ball up and down a court..the roar of those engines as they fly past you in a pack bring goosebumps as you try to find your Favorite driver in the pack..you wince when the BIG WRECK happen checking out to be sure your driver made it thru...thrill when those who didnt hoop outta their cars ready to rumble if it was another drivers fault..LOL
Dale Sr was the voice for Nascar about safety issues and they listened to him. His fans will always honor him thruout their lives and especially on his Birthday. Jr is his own man but Daddy surley gave him pointers during his career.
RIP Dale!

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