© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001
As I watched the news on Sunday night, one of Dale Earnhardt's fans was asked why people feel so close to these race drivers. I think I know the answer.
These are men who are down to earth, tremendously fan and family oriented, don't take drugs and believe in God. They take the time to sign autographs, treat their fans with respect ... NASCAR drivers know it is the fan who keeps them in business.
My husband and I have been watching racing since we met 37 years ago. We watched Bobby and Donnie Allison race at the dirt track in Chattanooga, Tenn., before they were "somebody" in racing. Even then it was a family oriented sport.
We have been big Earnhardt fans for many years. He is one of the main reasons we like watching NASCAR races. We were lucky enough to have been at Daytona to see him win his last race there (in 1998), the 50th anniversary of NASCAR. As many reporters have said, you either loved him or hated him. But one thing is for sure, Sunday he was just playing the part of the protector (not the "Intimidator") for the son he loved and for Michael Waltrip. He probably could have taken the race, but his heart won out. He died doing what he loved so much.
Racing will never be the same for us, as with many others I'm sure. It is almost like losing one of your family. We definitely have lost one of our great legends.
-- Karen Gauvreau, Clearwater
He was not my favorite driver, not even in the top 10. But Dale Earnhardt's influence on the sport of motor racing was profound and his importance to NASCAR immeasurable. We will all miss him.
-- David L. Moon, Holiday
NASCAR and the nation lost a great man in Dale Earnhardt. He was a role model on and off the track. My father retired last year, and he and wife Julie travel quite frequently. When he called me Monday night, after returning home from a golf trip, I did something I haven't done in quite a while. I told my father I loved him.
You never know when someone you love might not be there. Cherish each day as if it is your last. God bless Dale.
-- Mitch Malott, Dunedin
I am in a state of shock over Dale's death. I think NASCAR needs to retire the No. 3. It should never be allowed on another car. No one could do it justice.
-- Pete Wejanowski, Largo
In all the years of being a NASCAR fan, the last lap of the Daytona 500 was the first time I ever saw Dale Earnhardt not trying to win the race. I think that may have been what killed him.
He gave it all, all the time.
-- Tom Miller, Clearwater
It's time for some finger pointing. If NASCAR had put a stop to the bashing and crashing and blocking (for which Earnhardt had earned his reputation as the "Intimidator") long ago this accident would never have happened. When I short-track raced a few years ago in the north, if we ran into someone to get by them, or blocked someone who tried to pass, we were black-flagged. And this was at 80-90 mph.
NASCAR is letting these guys do it at 190 mph. NASCAR, put a stop to this type of racing. Make the racers earn their position on the track.
-- Garnet Peacock, via e-mail
It was sad for all race fans when we lost Dale Earnhardt. Bill France said shortly after the announcement of his death that Dale was the best driver NASCAR had ever seen.
I am real sorry to see Dale go, and respect all his accomplishments, but I disagree with France. How can you put Dale above Richard Petty? Richard didn't win by intimidation, he won by his skill and the skill of those who worked with him.
Dale was great. But in all fairness, you cannot compare him with Richard Petty.
-- Ron Bowers, via e-mail