Remembering Dale

Photo by James Phelps

Some how I missed the qualifying for this year’s Daytona 500. It was probably due to a late night or is it an early morning of poker since I didn’t get in until 4:15 in the morning. For the second year in a row Chase Elliott will be on the pole and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be beside him on the front row when the green flag waves this Sunday. Elliott edged out Junior by .002 seconds for the pole. The next thing up will be the Can-Am Duel 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night at 6. Last week I was at home during lunch and caught the beginning of a show called “The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt.” Since I had to go to work I hit record. It brought back all kinds of memories of that tragic day February 18th, 2001. The day started out with all kinds of excitement because racing was back. A bunch of friends got together with food and drinks set up at Whiskey River. The Playstation was connected to the big screen TV so we could show our racing skills before the race. Each of us picking our favorite driver. Mine was Dale Jarrett because we met him and his crew chief Todd Parrott a few years earlier at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth a couple of nights before the inaugural race at Texas Motor Speedway. I believe it was the first race on Fox and before the race Earnhardt said something like “You’re going to see something you’ve never seen of Fox.” That really stuck out after the race. Of course during the race when you’re with a bunch of buddies we cuss our friend’s drivers and try to “rattle his cage.” After the race I was in the kitchen fixing something to eat and I asked my girlfriend at the time “You see how serious everyone is about their driver?” Then the news came on with NASCAR president Mike Helton saying “This is understandably the toughest announcement I’ve ever had to make. We’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.” I, like everyone else was in complete disbelief. We all had seen what we thought were harder hits into the wall. All that week no matter where we went people were shedding tears for the man known as “The Intimidator.” That show  “The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt” brought tears to my eyes again. Some friends of mine & I went to the July race at Daytona in 1999 and I bought a picture with Dale Earnhardt’s car slightly behind Dale Jarrett’s car. I told my friends that’s how they were going to finish that night. That’s way it wound up with Jarrett driving on the apron under caution. I send that picture to one of my friends that was going to the race in California later in 2001. She had an insider in NASCAR and was going to get the picture signed by the two Dales. When Earnhardt died I knew I was never going to get it signed both men and I called Suzanne, my friend and said I need my picture back. When she sent it back she put it in a frame and to this day it still hangs in my living room along with a drawing of Jarrett and a poster of Earnhardt with Junior.

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