IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THE PAPER, YOU MIGHT HAVE NOTICED A THEME THIS MORNING. Ten years ago today, Dale Earnhardt was killed on a final-lap crash in the Daytona 500. Dustin Long looks back on that day here. He also has a piece on fans remembering their hero. Randy King has a nice first-person account of his Earnhardt memories here. I’ve probably heard that adult-movie-in-the-hauler story two dozens times riding with Nappy to various events over the years, but I never grow tired of it.
I WISH I COULD ADD A LOT TO THIS DISCUSSION, BUT I REALLY CAN’T. I didn’t follow NASCAR until I got out of college in 2000. I do remember the day he won the Daytona 500 for the first time, in 1998. Our baseball team was at a Golden Corral down south somewhere, on our way back from some ACC road trip, when we heard that he’d won. The whole restaurant was talking about it. Old people, little kids, blacks, whites — everyone. That’s when I realized how much this guy meant to so many people, including guys on my team who I’d had no clue were NASCAR fans.
IN THE YEARS SINCE, I’VE INTERVIEWED A TON OF NASCAR FANS. Dale Earnhardt seems to come up in more than half the conversations, regardless of the questions I ask. It really is amazing the depth of the admiration people had — and still have — for him. Five years ago, I wrote about a local women who had a stroke at the exact moment when Earnhardt hit the wall. “I knew right away he was gone,” she said, and NASCAR hasn’t been anything close to the same for her ever since. As Nappy writes today, “[M]y passion tank for NASCAR hit “E” when Earnhardt perished.” I think a lot of people feel that way.
SO I’LL ASK YOU GUYS: ANY DALE SR. MEMORIES YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
FRIDAY HEADLINES: State wrestling tournament opens at Salem today…Tigers’ Cabrera charged with DUI in Florida (just what you wanted to hear, right O.J.?)…NFL and union agree to week of meetings…Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton win Gatorade Duels.