Baseball had Babe Ruth. Football had Johnny Unitas. Basketball had Michael Jordan. Hockey had Wayne Gretzky. Boxing had Muhammad Ali …..
Auto Racing had Dale Earnhardt …..
And, like the names mentioned above, Dale Earnhardt was arguably the GREATEST (disclaimer – with all due respect to Richard Petty) his sport has ever known. He was a dominating force throughout an era, and he was equally feared and respected.
Dale would’ve been 58 years old, today. I doubt he would’ve still been racing, but I’ll guarantee his organization (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) wouldn’t be the dysfunctional mess it is ….. if he still roamed this earth. Ahh, a conversation for another time.
Let me say this blog will not serve as the 1,286,398th tribute to the fallen star. Anything and everything that could be said, written or alleged about the legendary champion has happened. This is not a half-baked attempt to reinvigorate debate or memories.
The loss has healed and the world of NASCAR has moved on and changed, immensely, since Dale Earnhardt’s death. Indeed, it’s a different sport, in many ways. But, it still maintains many core roots.
On this 58th Anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s birth, I’m simply going to seize an opportunity to suggest sports fans – who don’t like NASCAR – missed out on a behemoth personality and true champion.
Nestor Aparicio would’ve liked Dale Earnhardt, because the “Intimidator” was a marketing genius. As Dale Jarrett recounts, “Dale Earnhardt made us millionaires.” Earnhardt was the first driver to market and promote his likeness, through merchandising, endorsement and commercial exposure. At the time of his death, Dale Earnhardt was worth more than $100 million ….. not bad for a 9th grade dropout, huh?
Drew Forrester would’ve like Dale Earnhardt, because he was a relentless “son of a bitch” on the racetrack, and a genuinely kind, gracious, charitable humanitarian off it. Without overindulging, Earnhardt reached into his own pocket for many causes and he considered charity and stewardship and obligation. And, he didn’t brag about it.
Bob Haynie would’ve liked Dale Earnhardt, because he stayed true to his roots. Just like Bob, people could approach Earnhardt, in a private moment, and see that he sported an everyday look and drank his Bud out of a bottle. Dale Earnhardt didn’t dance …..
Jason Jubb would’ve liked Dale Earnhardt, because he did things the right way. Throughout his climb, he borrowed money, equipment and just about everything else. He paid it all back. He never forgot where he came from ….. and he was obsessed with winning. A Jubbism ???
My wife really liked Dale Earnhardt. She embodies many of his traits ….. he was honest, to the core. He was blunt, and rarely “sugar coated” anything. He obviously didn’t care if strangers liked him ….. he marketed Anti-Earnhardt garb, too !!!!
I have read numerous books and watched countless documentaries, tributes, movies and programs on Dale Earnhardt. The thing I liked most was he was able “to get inside the heads” of fellow competitors. If the imposing black Chevy was in the rear view mirror, the calmest of competitors trembled just a little bit.
Dale had many memorable quotes ……
“Boo me on Sunday, pay me on Monday.”
“I’m the second person – but first MAN (referring to Jeff Gordon) to win the Brickyard.”
“I don’t want to argue with my wife about her cooking ….. or my driving.”
“It don’t matter if they boo or cheer ….. it’s when your name is announced and you hear nothing, that’s when you’re in trouble.”
“If you’re not gonna be a racecar driver, stay the hell home. Don’t come out here and grumble about going too fast.”
Just a few of my favorite tidbits ……
If you’re not a NASCAR fan, there is little chance Dale Earnhardt’s career means anything to you. But, he was a great champion.
I’ll leave you with this …… Dale was rumored to be a very tough interview. If you didn’t know racing, he would call you on it. I would’ve lived up to that challenge.
Happy Birthday Dale ……