Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season is underway with the Daytona 500 on Sunday. This marks the tenth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death coming to the Finish Line while blocking for his two cars to win the Daytona 500. Michael Waltrip won his first race ever that day. And his son Dale Jr. came in second. There was not much of a Victory celebration that day, as a NASCAR icon was dead.
NASCAR racing went on without him. Or did it? Many safety innovations were installed because of Dale’s death. And the sport has become a lot safer. Earnhardt used a helmet without anything covering his face. His seat belts were not properly installed. When he hit the wall, he broke his neck because his head and helmet went flying. Now everyone has to wear a full-face helmet, held in place by a head and neck device. They have new seats with new belts to keep the drivers from moving on impact. And there are now new walls around each track to absorb energy on impact. All good inovations.
One year before Earnhardt died, two up and coming drivers died in practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. At almost the same spot on the track. First Adam Petty, while practicing for a Busch Series race. Then Kenny Irwin while practicing for a Winston Cup race. NASCAR’s answer was to put restrictor plates on the cars for the following race. Jeff Burton started on the pole that race and led every lap. No one could pass with the restrictor plates on the cars. It wasn’t until Earnhardt died that anyone looked into why there was a death or how to prevent any more.
Much has been said of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his lack of performance in recent years. And why does he still have such a wide fan base if he is not performing? I’d like to talk about a NASCAR fan. NASCAR fans are passionate about their drivers. As they were about Dale Earnhardt. But not all NASCAR fans were fans of Dale Earnhardt. Some liked him because he was the intimidator. Some didn’t like him because he moved other drivers out of his way, many times crashing them out.
After Earnhardt had collected seven Championships, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started racing in the NASCAR Busch Series. He won consecutive Championships in 1998 and 1999. Then he moved up to Winston Cup and drove for his Dad. He collected many fans on his own while racing in Busch. He even beat his Dad while racing with him.
Let me say again, NASCAR fans are passionate about their drivers. Jr. has many fans and they have been passionate about him all this time. As pointed out by the media, he has not been winning lately. As the media expects Jr. to be like his Dad, they are always on him for not performing as well as his Dad. But his fans will always remain passionate about him. They are his fans. And NASCAR fans are passionate about their drivers. NASCAR fans don’t find another driver when their driver isn’t winning all the time anymore. They stick with him through thick and thin. And always hope for the best. You can’t convince a NASCAR fan that their driver isn’t the best. Or that they should change drivers.
Some NASCAR fans don’t like Jr. always being in the limelight when he is not performing. The media is always scrutinizing him. Many NASCAR articles are written about Jr., maybe because he is so popular. And why is he so popular despite not performing? Because he collected fans back in 1998 and they are still his fans and shall remain his fans until he retires. That’s how a fan base works.
So non-Jr. fans, if the media is always talking about Jr. despite his lack of performance, blame the media for talking about him all the time. Not his fans who are loyal to him like NASCAR fans are. Jeff Gordon captured many fans when he started beating Earnhardt. Are they still his fans, or have they moved on to other, perhaps better drivers now that he isn’t winning as much? I say they are still his loyal fans. The media just doesn’t talk about him all the time like they do Jr. Maybe after this tenth anniversary they will let Sr. rest in peace and let Jr. race in peace. But I doubt it.
Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. Let’s go racing!