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COLUMN: Remembering ‘The Intimidator’

Livin' the Dream

sports editor

Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 14:02

 

Ok, I confess. I am a complete sports geek, and by complete I mean I include NASCAR in my repertoire of sports enthusiasm and knowledge.

I love NASCAR. I’ll admit, when I first started watching races, I most enjoyed the crashes. But then I watched a race that changed the course of NASCAR history and will be forever implanted in my mind: the 2001 Daytona 500.

I remember that day just as clearly as the  day September 11 happened. Teammates Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr. were running 1-2-3 on the sport’s biggest stage. Earnhardt Sr., the racing legend, was blocking Ken Schrader as they rounded the final turn and headed to the finish line, but in the blink of an eye everything changed.

It wasn’t a particularly violent crash, but you could feel the energy drain from the venue through the television as emergency crews raced to the wrecked cars. Little Dale Jr. knew his teammate and father wouldn’t race again.

“The Intimidator” was gone.

It didn’t take long for crews to get Dale Sr. to the local hospital, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead.

I still get goosebumps whenever I think about that historic tragedy, but NASCAR has come a long way in the 12 years since. It’s in bittersweet gratitude to Earnhardt Sr., arguably the sport’s best ever, that we don’t have to relive that horror in this day and age.

In the 12 years since that fateful day, not a single soul has perished within the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

I couldn’t be more excited about the start of the 2013 NASCAR season with the 55th running of the Daytona 500 this past weekend — it truly is “The Great American Race” — even though I might be the only one at Utah State in that category.

There hasn’t been a race since in which I missed seeing Dale Earnhardt Sr. out there. In my eyes, he’s the Micheal Jordan of NASCAR.

Here’s to you, Earnhardt.

 

– Curtis Lundstrom is a proud husband and father and aspiring sports journalist and referee. A junior majoring in print journalism, his life ambition is to bowl a perfect 300. Send any comments to curtislundstrom@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @CurtisLundstrom.

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