By admin | February 7, 2011
By Richard Allen
With the 10th anniversary of the unfortunate death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. being recognized during this yearâ€™s SpeedWeeks in Daytona there will be many stories about â€˜The Intimidatorâ€™ told by drivers, media members and fans. While those stories certainly add to the lore of the sport and perhaps inform those not familiar with the driver of his legacy, a more important factor should be considered.
When I think of Earnhardt and his legacy one thing that has often come to my mind over the last ten years is what the impact of his death has had on the sport. I tend to wonder if the seven time champion would even recognize the sport as it exists today.
It has been noted many times that Earnhardt had tremendous influence with NASCAR officials and that those leaders of the sport often sought his advice and opinion before making major changes. When he died a void was left in the NASCAR garage area. There are other influential current personalities in racing but none with same persuasive nature and clout as this particular driver.
Since his death NASCAR has implemented such changes as the Chase for the Championship, the Car of Tomorrow and a number of other â€˜fixesâ€™ that have left the sport of Earnhardtâ€™s day seeming like a distant memory.
The playoff format of today in no way resembles the system in which Earnhardt won his seven championships. The Winston Cup trophies he amassed were given as rewards for endurance over the course of a full season of racing hard in each event rather than a â€˜regular seasonâ€™ followed by a ten race sprint.
Obviously, I canâ€™t speak for him but I seriously doubt Earnhardt would be enthusiastic about the Chase. Any system that places so much emphasis on points that it causes drivers to accept mediocre finishes as â€œgood points daysâ€ runs contrary to everything he seemed to stand for as a win first and let the points fall where they may type driver.
Aside from the Chase, another major change since Earnhardtâ€™s death has been the Car of Tomorrow. A common template car for an uncommon racer would not have gone over well with this man who was so identified with Chevrolet, having driven that brand for most of his career. With all the mandated pieces and parts on the current NASCAR machine it would seem to once again run contrary to Earnhardtâ€™s style.
And the myriad of rule changes such as out of bounds lines, the wave around, top-35, double-file restarts, green/white/checkered finishes and so on would, I have to believe, be seen by Earnhardt for exactly what they are, gimmicks.
It is often said that, â€œIf Dale were still here I donâ€™t think this or that would happen.â€ Iâ€™m not so sure such statements are true. When Senior raced the man in charge of NASCAR was often seen in the garage area listening to the concerns of the competitors and taking into account what they had to say. That is hardly the case now and the current leadership has demonstrated little regard for the concerns of those it most needs.
Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was a tough, no nonsense, rough around the edges driver who raced to win, no more and no less. None of those qualities are very much welcome in modern day racing. I do not believe he would even recognize the NASCAR of today.
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