Over 50 years ago a new sport was introduced. This sport was stock car racing. The organization that sponsors stock car racing is known as National Association of Stock Car Racing, NASCAR. The driver that is identifiable with NASCAR is definitely Dale Earnhardt. Over the years there have been many great stock car racers from Cale Yarborough to Richard Petty and Davy Allison, but no other name was better known than Dale Earnhardt. Whether on the track or in the crowds, there is no possible way a person can look without seeing a black number three or some other Earnhardt insignia. In first or last place, victory circle or behind the wall, the black GM Goodwrench Chevrolet could not be deprived of its respect. Who would have ever guessed that the legendary Dale Earnhardt’s life would be taken from him on the last lap of the biggest race of 2001?
Dale Earnhardt was born on April 29, 1952. He was raised in Kannapolis North Carolina. Dale started racing at age twelve and won his first race at age fifteen. After winning his first race Dale decided that this was what he wanted to do as a career. Dale dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. Dale’s parents did everything they could to try to keep him in school but they were unable to. Earnhardt would soon find out just how hard it would be on him and his future career though.
Dale Earnhardt came from a family of stock car racers. Dale’s father being a racer himself knew how hard it was to start racing. That is the main reason he tried to keep Dale from dropping out of high school to race. “ They even offered Dale a new car to keep him in high school.” (1:72) Dale Earnhardt’s grandfather was also a racer. Dale was not very close to him though. “In an interview Earnhardt said that he regretted not knowing his grandfather very well. Earnhardt also mentioned the fact that his actions as a kid were embarrassing to him now.”(1:73)
Being one of the most dominant drivers on the track, Dale quickly earned the nickname the Intimidator. Dale won his first Winston Cup championship in 1980. After his first Winston Cup championship Dale went on to earn 6 more championships to tie Richard Petty with 7 victories. The nickname Intimidator fit Dale very well. “He was known for causing wrecks to move himself up in the race.” (1:73) After several complaints from other drivers...
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....”(6:1). Nobody can truly say what exactly happened that day and who knows if NASCAR will tell the truth in August but at least we will be closer to an answer than we are now.
Earnhardt is the driver, the reason, and the person that made NASCAR is what it is today. Darrel Waltrip said it best when he said, “We have lost the best thing that ever happened to NASCAR”(6:1). As a renegade teenager or even a little fearsome racer, Earnhardt was the man who always came through. The legacy will be passed on through Dale Jr. and the Earnhardt name will be respected for the years to come. Sure NASCAR will get over this tragedy in time, but there will always be some trace of Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt.
1. Pare, Michael A. Sports Stars, Detroit/ Michigan: U-X-O Publishing Co. 1998.
2. Bondi, Victor. American Decades 1980-1989, Detroit/Michigan: Gale Research Inc. 1996
3. Dodge, Herb. “ We’ve Lost Dale Earnhardt,” Speedway Illustrated, (April 21, 2001) pgs. 72-85.
4. Bartlett, Jeff. “Circuit Breaker,” The End of an Era, (April 16, 2001) pgs. 2-5.
5. “Dale Earnhardt” www.daleearnhardt.com, online February 21, 2001.
6. “Dale” www.NASCAR.com, online February 21, 2001.
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