A True Champion On and Off the Track
We Will Miss You
Daytona's claims aside, Charlotte is the hub of NASCAR. Most of the teams have their headquarters within a 50 mile radius of Charlotte. Dale Earnhardt was born and raised in Kannapolis, about 25 miles northeast of here. Charlotte Motor Speedway was his home track. He lived with his family at Lake Norman, about 25 miles north of here. His shop is in nearby Mooresville, not far from the Olthoff's shop.
Many years ago, when he was driving Thunderbirds for the Bud Moore team, I did an engineering analysis for them on using closely spaced 3rd and 4th gear ratios so that 4th could be use as an overdrive to save fuel and engine wear while drafting. The savings were enough to eliminate a fuel pit stop. However, they decided against it. Their driver, they felt, was too much of a hard charger to use it. And so he was.
In an era when professional athletes spend more time in court with
their lawyers than they do on court with their team, he was a true role model. It came
from humble beginnings, but the wealth and fame didn't corrupt him. He remained a man of character and a devoted
family man. He seemed invincible. I still
cant believe it. He will be sorely
Mike Stenhouse 218
I walked into my folk's house this evening, had been working all day,
then out in my Mk III, was up to Charlotte, came in and saw where Dale Earnhardt had died
at Daytona. I had met him back in Kansas at
Heartland Park Topeka. He was a nice guy. It is so much harder to believe when a great
driver is killed. I can sort of understand
how a novice can lose it, but not a Champion. Like
when Aryton died at Imola. I saw the replay
of his accident; it did not look like that hard a hit.
I guess like Dennis Olthoff told me about racing, it was just his time. I am sorry for his family, and the great family of
racing people, and his millions of fans.
Hal Copple 673
Dale Earnhardt was a true champion, and a very nice gentleman.
He used to come here to Wisconsin nearly every fall to deer hunt. Dying as you cross the finish line is the only way
Dale would have ever wanted it, but I'm sure, like most of us, he would not have wanted it
at all. It starkly reminded me of my wreck at Road America, so this is especially
Randy Thomas 1002
I too was shocked when I heard of Dale Earnhardt's death. I had
watched the race and it didn't seem like it was that hard of a hit to me either. I have
raced cars for thirty years with no major incidents. I thank the Lord for that and its
hits me pretty hard when we lose one of our racing family. My heart goes out to the
Eddy Kannapel 799
Like everyone else I was shocked.
I didn't watch the race, as I was mountain biking, but saw the replays. I keep running over and over in my mind what must
have happened. It didn't appear to be a
mechanical failure but I guess a tire might have blown.
It looked to me either the air got taken off his car somehow or he may have lost
concentration just for a split second. The
impact was mild in comparison to many others I've seen.
They did show one in-car camera shot of the impact and it looked as though debris
came through the windscreen and destroyed the camera (just next to his head). Batteries, alternators and radiators can make for
lethal projectiles. Especially with an open
faced helmet such as they all seem to wear. My
blessings go to his family, friends, crew and all his fans.
He will be missed.
Jim Levenson 634
Actually, the camera was a wide angle mounted at the forward part of the roof I believe. He was in the apex of the corner with full G forces pulling to the outside. Marlin tapped his rear quarter and as he spun sideways, the inertia pulled him to the wall. Unfortunately when he tapped Schraeder it aligned his car straight on with not only the momentum of his speed, but the already impending G-forces straight into the wall. I guess it would kind of like facing backwards in a Pro Stock car launching from the starting line at 100mph, then get rear ended on top of that by a top fuel car going 300mph. Even though I'm a Ford Man to the end, Earnhardt was my guy - no question. I have put up a small tribute for Dale on my Main page...
Randy Thomas 1002
Well, unfortunately I was at the Daytona 500 on the back straight
near turn 3, with a good view of what happened. First
the wreck on lap 175 with Tony Stewart. Very
hairy, but with the car flipping around like that you could tell that he was going to be
ok- all that violent action dissipates the energy. Dale's
crash was very different. A small fishtail,
then the tires really grabbed in an almost perpendicular direction to the track (anyone
who has driven on high banks knows the feeling of the wall pulling you up), then right
into the wall at 180. It was an incredibly
hard, brief impact. Very short, but very hard
and sharp. You could tell immediately that it
was bad, as could everyone in the stands. The
whole place got quiet. Then after the race,
there was a tremendous feeling of loss- everyone knew what happened just due to the lack
of info being relayed. We lost the greatest
driver ever- no doubt about it. But you get
the feeling that if he had his choice, this is the way he would have gone out. Racing is
dangerous, but as with anything, the good times always have to be balanced with bad times. It was a quiet ride home on the airplane that was
full of NASCAR fans returning to Colorado.
Scott Cardwell 326
Any way, the irony to me is that I was in Las Vegas the weekend before at the Richard Petty Driving Experience doing a couple of ride alongs in one of his cars. I had a choice of cars to ride in so choose the black #3. After folding myself into the rider's seat, I reach over to the driver and said that I felt confident knowing that Dale Earnhardt was going to be driving me around at 165-170 mph (his name was George). I have a picture of me and Dale (George) just before we took off. I have never had the experience on 4 wheels like I had that day....just one week before we lost the 'real' Dale Earnhardt. I am still "stunned."
Be careful out there, folks!
Randy Klein 584
Ive never been a fan of the "go fast, turn left" type
of racing. I do have great respect for those who go out on the tracks of the world to ply
their trade. Dale was one of the best and he will be sorely missed by all, NASCAR fans or
not. Often, we think of athletes as those macho types with bulging muscles etc. We
dont often think about the requisite quick thinking, reflexes, decision-making,
mechanical acumen, community association etc., that defines the race driver as an athlete.
These guys deserve more respect!
Frank Forestiere 725
Sad day for me Sunday. I'm sure you remember our little side trip to the Earnhardt
souvenir trailer at Lowe's. (Mike: Dwight was visiting Charlotte from LA. Our tour in
218 included a stop at Charlotte Motor Speedway on race day.) Still got the # 3
on my black Monte Carlo. Didn't buy a black one because of Earnhardt, just seemed natural
to put that 3 on it. I met him at the first California 500 in 1997. Big loss to his family
and NASCAR, Sundays won't seem the same.
Dwight Van Horn 587
I learned that even though he was the Intimidator, he was one of the first drivers to visit with children with the Make-a-Wish Foundation every time they asked him. It was well known around Kanappolis that he would reach in his pocket and donate to help a charitable cause. Ive heard he completely paid for a church parking lot when they asked him for any kind of donation. But, at the same time, I learned he told the representative of the congregation that he didnt want anyone to know who had paid for it as he wanted to remain anonymous. That says something for his intimidating character, doesnt it?
I read where one of his competing drivers said rookies always knew when you were accepted by the Intimidator as an equal. They said he would tear right up behind you on the cool down lap, and just bump your car from the rear. Not hard enough to spin the rookie out, but as if to say "Ya done good, Rookie, Ill see you next Sunday!". There are many more stories that space wont permit me to include.
But, in my own opinion, Dale Earnhardt WAS what NASCAR is all about. Just a good ol boy who loved to drive race cars and figured out a way to make a living at it. If you were lucky enough to finish a race ahead of Dale Earnhardt, you could truly say that on that day - for that one day only - you were better than the best. He truly was the Best - period.
Ill miss him and my heart and soul go out to his family and friends.
He will never be forgotten by this race fan.
Freddy Rice 770
My thoughts are with his family and the hundreds of thousands of Dale Earnhardt fans
across the world. They too must feel that they have lost someone dear and near! We have
certainly lost another of the great heroes of motor racing!
Wilhelm Loots 024
Mike Stenhouse 218