It doesn’t even seem possible that it’s been a decade since Dale Earnhardt was killed at Daytona in the 500. There’s been all kinds of tributes, and will continue to be as this year’s 500 kicks off in just a bit.
The thing that impresses me is how emotional it still is. I can still remember seeing it, and hearing on the radio later that Dale was gone. And this weekend, you could hear it in the voice of Michael Waltrip when he won the truck race Friday night, and you see it in the eyes of broadcasters that are supposed to be two steps removed from the emotion of the sport. That’s just how deep this wound has been over the last ten years.
Frankly, I don’t see how Junior manages it. I mean, the death of my father, now almost a decade past, stills wrecks me at times. A phrase, a thought, a place, and suddenly I’m in the way-back machine, hurting like the wound was fresh. And I don’t have someone reminding me of it daily, nor do I carry my father’s name so I see it everywhere I turn. For Junior, there’s no escape from the legacy of his father and his name, and while I’m sure he’s proud to carry that on, I know there’s gotta be a indescribable weight that he carries daily. You can talk about strength, but that’s a strength most of us will likely never know.
The 500 starts in a bit, and I’ve heard that the 3rd lap will be run in tribute to Earnhardt Sr. There’s no better tribute I can think of to help the sport heal, and begin to point the splitters forward, rather than behind.