I remember it like it was yesterday. I was watching the 2001 Daytona 500 with my dad and his friend. We were sitting on the couch, we all had a dollar on who would finish the highest out of the drivers we picked. My dad picked first, and of course he picked Dale Earnhardt, my dad's friend picked Bill Elliott, and me, with two of my favorites off the board I thought I'd pick a Dodge since we were a Dodge family, and it so happened that this was the first race with Dodges since the 70's, so I picked Ward Burton.
Ward was running up front most of the race then he was caught up in the big crash with 18 laps to go. I was a kid, and I got mad because there went my chances of winning 3 dollars.
But it turned out that losing the money wasn't my biggest heart break of the day.
On turn 4 of the final lap, Dale Earnhardt was blocking for his son, Dale Jr and his newly hired driver, Michael Waltrip, and was bumped and he over corrected sending him into Ken Schrader's car and head on into the wall at 200 miles per hour.
I initially didn't think much of it other than being upset that my favorite driver just crashed and missed out on a top 5 finish.
Then after the broadcast was over, and there was no word on Dale's status, we got a call from my grandpa who was at the race and he told us that he saw them getting Dale out of the car, and he told us that he knew he was dead, and that they put a tarp over Dale's car, which is only done when a driver dies in the car.
I held out hope that he was mistaken, but then it was announced later on the evening that we had lost Dale Earnhardt.
I was reading a book for school, and my dad came in my room with tears in his eyes and told me the news was official, and I cried like baby.
Back then Dale Earnhardt was one of my idols. My dad and grandpa loved Dale Earnhardt, and so did I.
We already had tickets to the Atlanta race 3 weeks later, and when we went, and Kevin harvick edged out Jeff Gordon, there was not a dry eye in the stands. The driver that Dale hand picked to replace him won the race.
Since then there have been so many changes to NASCAR.
The Chase, the COT, numerous safety rules have all been added.
I'm not gonna harp on the changes made, nI just want this blog to be a tribute for Dale since this is the 10th anniversary of his death.
If you are gonna make jokes about his death, take it somewhere else.