February 20, 2001
We last took a walk down memory lane, Now I ask you to again remember with me
Any of you who know me, know I am an avid NASCAR Fan, my first memories are watching limited taped races on Wide World of Sports, David Pearrson, Benny Parsons, Cale Yarborough and of course Richard Petty. Not much TV time until Cable TV opened the door to the world, NASCAR had come out of its deep south shell, "Awsome Bill" , "Rusty" , "Ricky", "Davey" were the names we heard, this was the new NASCAR.
Buddy Baker was the first Stock Car Driver to break the 200 MPH barrier, in a Dodge, but Awsome Bill ran 212 MPH at Talladega SuperSpeedway in a Ford. The fast cars of the past 35 years were to be slowed by the use of "restrictor plates" to cut the air/ gas flow to the 750 HP Motors, yes Motors, "Real Race Cars Have Roofs" and "Motors". During this period of the 80s and 90s we lost some of the best drivers, Davey Allison, Alan Kuwickie, John Nemachek and Niel Bonnet. In 2000 we again suffered the loss of 3 drivers, so young, Generation X, Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin at the same track, and Tony Roper from the Truck series. Could the Fans take any more?
Well here we are, the first race of the 2001 season, NASCARs Super Bowl, and the very Heart of NASCAR has been ripped out. In the words of Mike Helton, NASCARS President, As a result of the turn 4 accident in the Daytona 500, weve lost Dale Earnhart . I was not an Earnhart Fan, Im a Ford Fan, Mark Martin, I loved to hate him, some of my best friends are Earnhard Fans, I sat for hours Sunday with one of my best friends, back and forth we went with the rivalry, I would say "tell that old man to park that car" he made a joke about Marks new Sponsor, all in fun, a wonderful day with friends and family had come to a close, with promises of the 500 next year same time same place, Sherry and I went about cleaning up the mess, then came the phone call, "Mike this is Brian, What happened?, how did Earnhart get killed?" "WHAT" no way I replied, that wreck wasnt that bad, are you sure its not Tony Stewart?, No it was the Intimadator.
NASCAR has lost its Babe Ruth, its Michael Jordan, all four of the Beatles, As Michael Waltrip, the race winner (his first in 462 starts, 15 yrs) in a car owned by Dale Earnhart and "Little E" on his rear bumper said, "In the twinkle of an eye, he was sitting next to my Dad, watching from above, and that aint so bad. I have been "Numb" since I heard the news, kinda foggy, dazed and confused, this is not the way its supposed to be, just like with Lonnie and Kenny, we were supposed to grow old together. Is it natural for a grown man to cry when a grown man dies? YES! it's ok to cry, its ok to grieve, its human nature.
Dale Earnhart died in the last turn of the last lap of the Daytona 500, with the Number 15 leading and the Number 8 hot on his tale, both cars owned by him, the leader, the little brother he never had, and the Number 8, "Little E" and Dale doing something he never did before, he let someone else win the Greatest Race in Racing.
May God wrap his arms around the family, friends and fans, God speed Dale Earnhart, as one more tear rolls down my cheek .
This is the hardest 500 miles Ive traveled in a long time.J. Michael Smith, KYCH