Today, April 29th, would have been Dale Earnhardt?s 59th birthday. It is really hard to believe when you think about it. You wonder how different the sport would be today had he not died in that last lap wreck during the 2001 Daytona 500. I know I have numerous questions and assumptions run through my head when I reflect on his passing. How would safety be today? Would there even be the COT?
We can all conclude that Dale Jr. would have never gone to Hendrick. Instead, he would still be driving for his daddy. If Little E had stayed with DEI, than would Kyle Busch have moved to Joe Gibbs Racing? No one knows for sure. At this point, Senior would have likely retired to focus squarely on his ownership role. Had this been the case, what would become of Chip Ganassi and his Cup program? There are literally hundreds of more questions I have and none can be answered.
On your birthday Dale, I would like to share my favorite memory I have of you. I had been watching NASCAR races for about seven years or so before I finally attended my first race in the fall of 2000. Which race was it? The Winston 500 at Talladega, which turned out to be your last win. Late in the race, I had already counted you out. As a matter of fact, I was feeling sorry for my dad (a big fan of yours) that his driver wasn?t going to win. Somehow you did, going from 18th to 1st in just five laps. I admit, when you won I was initially displeased. I was a Bobby Labonte fan and that year you were his main competition for the Winston Cup. But on my way home, it hit me ? I just witnessed the legend of NASCAR perform his craft. With your passing just months later, it made this race all the more special. To this day, I have not witnessed a better race, and I probably never will. I have been going to Talladega races ever since, and try to go a new track each year. I can credit you, Dale, for getting me hooked on NASCAR. Every time I go to a race, I hope to see a driver do something similar. It hasn?t happened.
Thank you Dale for all that you did to make the sport grow and we definitely could use you right now as a voice to get NASCAR back on track.
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