Dale Earnhardt was one of the most amazing and best loved NASCAR drivers in the history of the sport. He won seven Winston cups and was a four-time IROC winner. He won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, and many others. He had a huge passion for racing and did it his entire life. His son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps and also became a NASCAR champion driver. Unfortunately, NASCAR driving is an extremely dangerous sport; the cars are speeding down a track at terrifying speeds and horrible — even deadly — accidents are frequent. This is what took Dale’s life. The depressing truth is that Earnhardt was in a deadly car accident on February 18, 2001, in Daytona Beach, Florida. While driving in the Daytona 500, Dale was involved in a three-car accident in the final lap, where Earnhardt died due to head trauma.
What happened was a terrible accident and the community will always remember it, but the show must go on, and the drivers who love to race must race. Dale’s death impacted the racing community and brought the issue of safety front and center. Due to the accident, NASCAR has changed some rules and added new ones to make the sport safer so the fans and drivers can enjoy the races more.
It has now been 15 years since Dale Earnhardt’s death and North Carolina has planned a candlelight vigil as a memorial. According to WNCN, The candlelight vigil will be at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. where anyone is welcome to come and remember the late and great Dale Earnhardt. There has been a vigil every year since Dale’s death, but for many family members, friends, and fans, this one is a big deal. The family especially sees the importance of the vigil as they remember the last 15 years lived in the of absence of a father, husband, and son. To many young fans, Earnhardt is just a story, but to the people who had the ability to watch him race, he is the king and always will be. Dale dramatically impacted the history of NASCAR, and if he had won that final race in Daytona, he would have set a new record for the most Daytona 500 cups won by a single racer.
Since the accident, Dale Earnhardt’s son, Earnhardt, Jr., has continued racing and also owns car dealerships. According to the NASCAR website, Earnhardt, Jr. reflected on his history with his dad the week of the 15th anniversary of Dale’s death. He told of how he had worked in the service department and changed oil for a living. He said Earnhardt never fed him with a silver spoon and it has made him a better person. He also said that for two and a half years he worked in his father’s dealership and was grateful for the time spent there. Throughout his driving career, no one has ever told him he changed their oil. Perhaps people were so overwhelmed that they were in Dale Earnhardt’s dealership that they didn’t even notice Dale’s son was changing their oil!
The family and all of the fans will solemnly remember Dale Earnhardt as they ponder the fact that he has been gone for 15 years today. The candlelight vigil is sure to draw a crowd as the world spends some time just to remember him and the great man he was. While he died at a young age, only 49, he enjoyed his life and loved racing. He died doing the one thing he loved, but he is at peace now even as he is greatly missed here on earth.
(Photo by Hans Deryk/ AP Images)