Date of Death: February 18, 2001
Cause of Death: Racing Accident
When I was young I thought racing was incredibly boring, you know, the old joke about watching cars go around in a circle. Then my father introduced me to the personality of Dale Earnhardt. He was know as “The Intimidator.” While I liked his competitive spirit, I think it was more than just his racing attitude that drew me to him. Out of the car, he was quiet, reserved. When he did talk, he was coy, but honest. At the beginning of his career, he was widely hated by other drivers because of his arrogance; as he grew older, the arrogance completely faded and he became just as widely respected for his commitment to the sport and his level-headedness.
Part of me thinks I really liked the guy because he reminded me of my father. They were the same age with similar temperaments and humor. They also both loved to ride bumpers of anyone in their way. Regardless, I almost never missed a race from 1995 to 2001. I played NASCAR 2 for the computer, and once went to the NASCAR simulator at the Mall of America. I even played fantasy NASCAR one year. The sport surpassed my love for baseball.
And then it all collapsed. 2001 was hopefully going to be a comeback year for Dale, who hadn’t won a cup in many years. His team was strong. Down the final stretch of the Daytona 500, he was following teammate Michael Waltrip and his son Dale Jr to the finish line. And then what looked like a ho-hum spin-out into the wall led to instant death as his neck snapped.
I haven’t seen a race since.
My grandma cried that day, and she was not one to get wrapped up in celebrities, save Stan Musial when she was a kid. I called my dad to make sure he was doing okay. It was a very bizarre time, feeling so wrapped up with this man we never met whose main contribution to society was driving around in a circle.
If you’ve been counting, we’ve reached ten celebrities. But along the way I had added one I forgot about. So come back tomorrow for number one.