Friday, February 18, 2011

Dale Earnhardt Sr. - 10 Years Later

I'm not the biggest NASCAR fan. I grew up listening to Jim Rome diss it every chance he got and it was a sport mainly for Southern White folks. There's nothing in California that gave me the urge to watch outside of being a history buff and knowing who Richard Petty was. But 10 years ago today, I watched the saddest day in NASCAR history and immediately knew why it was terrible.

Growing up in the 90's, you wondered about 3 things. When would Susan Lucci win a Daytime Emmy? When would the Clippers have a winning season? When would Dale Earnhardt Sr. win the Daytona 500? Despite my NASCAR dislike, I was happy when Dale Sr. won the race because it was a long time coming for him.

Dale was the face of NASCAR even though I started to like this young upstart Jeff Gordon who was California brash and not the typical driver. Everyone loved him and he was hands down the most popular driver since Petty. That's why the 2001 Daytona 500 stands out to me more than any race.

I remember watching Sportscenter and seeing Senior make his move to try and overtake the leader for his second race. And then all of a sudden, he hit that wall. I still remember that issue of SI with Earnhardt on the cover - an issue I also anticipated because of the story on Compton Dominguez HS and their phenom Tyson Chandler.

The tragedies of Len Bias and Hank Gathers resonate with me the same way but their loss was tragic because there was so much potential yet to be realized. Senior was a well-accomplished star who's legacy was set in stone and in the process of being crystallized.

Even if I'm a big fan of Jimmie Johnson, I always root for Dale Earnhardt Jr and every time he races, I know he carries a big part with him. His tribute at Daytona last year where he won that race nearly moved me to tears because it's one thing to lose your Dad and totally another when he's an icon that still lives as large.

I'll miss the race being on my busy Sunday schedule but I'll be thinking about No. 3 this weekend and every sports fan should too when they see the Daytona highlights. I can't believe its been 10 years

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