Remembering Dale Sr. - A Champion's Champion
"You Win Some, Lose Some, And Wreck Some."
Dale Sr. died after a final-lap collision at the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2001
If you are a NASCAR fan, you probably heard about the pass in the grass. Coming from seventeenth to win Talladega in 2000, his last win; or mayhap of him winning the pole at Watkins Glen despite being hurt. There's so many, many wonderful tales that conjure pride and smiles.
However, there is no better way to understand the man than by the words of his family. The quotes below are from Ralph Dale Earnhardt Sr. induction ceremony into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2010.
TERESA EARNHARDT: When Dale Earnhardt had his hands on the steering wheel, he felt and saw things that you and I will never see. He could see the wind. Moving at 200 miles an hour, he could see things more clearly than most of us could ever fathom, and thrill us all while doing it. Some call him legend. Some call him hero. Some simply call him Dad. Or son.
Dale Earnhardt was a man who personified the American dream. He worked hard. He earned everything he had and he enjoyed it. This is an achievement of a lifetime. To be able to celebrate it, for me this is a moment of pride for Dale that I just can't put into words.
As I thought about the importance of today, I thought about the people, I thought about what people recognize and remembered about Dale's attributes. They called him the bravest, the toughest, the greatest, the most unselfish, the most generous, the most authentic, just to summarize a few. But there's so much that we could say about Dale.
But the people who believed in him, steered him to victory, held him up to greatness, have said it best. Former president George Bush quoted, Dale, he was an American legend. Senator Jesse Helms said Dale was an authentic American, he was a hero to millions. Secretary of State Colin Powell called him an American icon. Another quote, he was the greatest racecar driver that ever lived. Also, there’s Earnhardt, and there's everybody else. But local school children put it best when they simply called him a real hero.
Dale Earnhardt was definitely a hero to his family. No one can say more about that than his children. Through them, his friends and fans, through this Hall of Fame, through you, Dale Earnhardt, the legend, lives on.
KERRY EARNHARDT: You know, Dad, as we grew up, he sacrificed a lot in life. There was a lot of times when Dad wasn't around and I wondered what was so important to him that he had to be gone all the time. Things called autograph sessions, appearances. Fans meant the most to Dad. Dad once taught me things about what fans were. He always taught me that no matter who it is in life, your bosses, coworkers you work with, the ones that come out to support you in whatever you do in life, are your fans, the ones that believe in you and believe in everything you do.
You know, Dad was just tremendous with his fans. Learned a lot from Richard. I can't say enough about what the fans meant to Dad. Dad would always take the last minute and plus some to be associated with the fans, young ones up to older ones. There's a lot of times Dad would give back to fans for what they did to him.
I remember times he met children with handicaps. They ended up having a van built for a wheelchair access and giving it to the family, to many other things. Just a proud moment to be here and be part of this induction to the Hall of Fame. As a son, I thank everyone, the fans out there that supported him.
KELLEY EARNHARDT: My dad was a very giving person. Though he was an incredible driver and a businessman that was very important to him. But it was also important to give back. Whether he did that to the local farmers on Highway 3 or racers just getting, started like Jeff Gordon, or the men and women serving our military in the public service, it was about doing business the right way and using his successes to give back to others.
Giving back was important, but what was not important was telling people about it. Most of his acts of kindness went without anyone knowing. Other times his help and his advice was a little more public, right, Dale?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I guess you could say there were a few times where I got some public advice from him. We were in Japan racing. I was racing for the first time against the Cup competitors and my father. It was late in the race. I got some new tires. Only had a few laps to make those work for me. I got up underneath him on turn three and four, I just needed two inches to clear him. I didn't have him cleared. I slid across his nose, up to the wall. He carried me all the way down the front straightaway with my back tires in the air all the way off into one. That was the day I met The Intimidator. That same grit and competitive spirit, he carried that with his racing, but he carried it with everything else in life, too. When he wasn't in the racecar, he was always outdoors. He was an avid outdoorsman, right, Taylor?
TAYLOR EARNHARDT: I think that it's a big nod that me and Kerry, Kelley and Dale all grew up with different aspects of Dad. Dale was always at the track with him. I got some more outdoorsy, the real man he was behind the scenes, away from the racetrack. I always grew up not wanting to clean my room. I'd call Dad, we'd go ride around the farm. He taught me to hunt. Aside from that, he taught me how to take care of animals, conserve animals, which is something he was very passionate about. He taught me that. That's something I took from him.
I think with us all having different experiences, we all look like Dad, everyone always tells us that we all look a little bit like Dad. I think we all act like him, too. We're determined, driven, stubborn as a fence post. But Dad gave all four of us something. He gave all his fans something. I think that's what makes him a true champion in everybody's eyes.
TERESA EARNHARDT: I'd like to give you one more quote from Dale.
A racer wants to race and win. Imagine having the opportunity to do that for a living, and then to be successful, and then to be considered one of the greatest drivers that ever raced, especially by a group of peers. It's one of the greatest honors a driver could ever receive. I've had a great career. If it ended tomorrow, I'd have no regrets. Dale Earnhardt.
Dale Earnhardt was a champion's champion, who carved out his own piece of NASCAR history as he elevated the sport to a higher level. In that process, he brought millions of fans along for the ride. We NASCAR Fans are indebted.
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