Wednesday, 17 August 2022

NASCAR VIEW: There will never be another like Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Posted On Wednesday, 29 April 2015 00:00 Written by
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Dale Earnhardt Sr. would have been 64 years old today.

He's a legend, perhaps the most beloved driver in NASCAR's long history.

Why? Because as tough as he was, he was just likeable. He was charming. Sure he acted like a jerk on track sometimes, but you could forgive him for it because of that charm.

None of today's drivers who have their share of haters -- Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, etc. -- can claim the type of charm Earnhardt had. So fans are less forgiving of them.

And none of them can claim his level of competitiveness either.

Earnhardt cared only about winning. If he didn't he wasn't happy. It didn't matter how much money he made or how many titles he won, he wanted to win every week, and would wreck his buddy to do it (ask Terry Labonte if you don't believe me).

Then he'd take you hunting in the offseason (and no, I don't believe Terry every took a shot at him, even after Bristol).

I was lucky enough to catch the end of Dale Sr.'s career -- the magic moments at Atlanta (75th win) and Talladega (76th and final win after an amazing run to the front on the bumper of Kenny Wallace over a stunning final two laps). I saw him win at Daytona after 20 years of trying. I saw his temper, as fiesty as ever, when he flipped off Kurt Busch in the early laps of the 2001 Daytona 500. I saw him race hard each and every week, until the end, and race with pride in his final race as his teammate and friend Michael Waltrip headed toward his first win.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. was who he was -- a great driver, a kind man to the fans (I've heard so many stories of how well he treated the people who rooted him on), and that's part of the reason his son is so popular; they see some of his dad's best traits in him and it lets them carry on rooting for the guy they thought would live forever.

I was at Daytona the day Earnhardt passed in 2001, writing sad words into a computer about how he had left this Earth.

But the reality is that he never really left the sport and his influence still lingers -- both in the safety measures he inspired and the driving styles of some of today's toughest competitors, who are no doubt channeling the Intimidator.

It's been 14 years since Dale left us, and there hasn't been another like him, nor will there be.

Matt Myftiu can be reached on Twitter @MattMyftiu. Follow AutoTechReviews on Twitter at @AutoTechReview.

 

 

 

 

 

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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