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« The Daytona 500 of football is over so it’s time to focus on a critically important SpeedWeeks | Main | Mayfield’s guilt or innocence still subject of much debate »

Dale Earnhardt, Sr. would not even recognize today’s NASCAR

By admin | February 7, 2011


By Richard Allen

With the 10th anniversary of the unfortunate death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. being recognized during this year’s SpeedWeeks in Daytona there will be many stories about ‘The Intimidator’ 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 ‘fixes’ that have left the sport of Earnhardt’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 ‘regular season’ followed by a ten race sprint.

Obviously, I can’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 “good points days” 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 Earnhardt’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 Earnhardt’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, “If Dale were still here I don’t think this or that would happen.” I’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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10 Responses to “Dale Earnhardt, Sr. would not even recognize today’s NASCAR”

  1. Kevin Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Rich,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you in this article. Dale had the ear of ‘the man in charge.’ All Dale had to say was the race was crap and sure enough the next time back NASCAR would have made a change to allow for better racing. Dale had the ultimate influence, he also had a willing audience.

    Unfortunately, as you say, I don’t think it would make much difference if Dale were still here. ‘The man in charge’ is going to run things which ever way the whiske… oops, I mean wind blows.

  2. HILDA BEACHFRONT Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Rich,

    When it comes to the nascrap’s rules, way of things,etc..the fearless leader would of ‘uh, duh….’ and told Dale race by rules or I’ll throw you out of nascrap the same way that he threw Jeremy Mayfield out…!!!!

    The fearless leader thinks he knows best for the racing….
    ”uh…duh…not’

    In a few years when next to nobody shows up for a race, the fearless leader will wonder what happened…that should of been thought of many shots and unclear thinking and listening to the drivers and fans….all these years we have been trying to tell him….

    Yes, I miss Dale and Jeremy racing very much.

  3. cliff Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Hiya Rich great article.. Finally race season is among us…ordered my tickets for Bristol yesterday firsttime for me at Bristol… any advice for the track???

  4. Davey B Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Do you actually believe that someone who won the majority of his races by crashing the other guy would care about the chase? He would see it just the way that Jimmy Johnson does. A way to win his 8th championship without having to win more than a few races a year.

    Dale was competitive but far from his peak. he would have delighted in being able to ride around in fifth place for all but the biggest races.

    He definitely would have laughed off the COT. he couldn’t be bothered to properly use the safety gear that was already in place.

    He definitely would have supported the green/white/checker. Reference the 1999 Bristol race with Terry Labonte. The man lived for dirty driving and that’s what the G/W/C encourages.

  5. Gail Forrester Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Who cares? He has been dead 10 years. Doesn’t the statute of limitations on hero worship ever run out for YOU PEOPLE?

  6. The Mad Man Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Good piece Rich. Iron Head wouldn’t recognize what BZF has done to what was once a sport and is now sports entertainment. He did have the ear of Bill France Jr and did speak his mind and spoke for most of those in the garage.

    @Gail, people still have hero worship for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E Lee, George S Patton, MLK, JFK, RFK, Vince Lombardi, Mikcey Mantle, and Jesus Christ and they’ve all been gone a lot longer than Earnhardt. So no, there is no statute of limitations on hero worship. Only the attention span of those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

  7. SB Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Cliff, best advice is to get to the track early! There is good parking in a reasonable distance from the track…across from the Red Barn campground usually costs about $20 for the day, and is about 10 minutes walking, not on the road. Pack a lunch and a book to read before the track opens (for the night race). Plan your ‘getaway’ ahead of time, or just plan on partying in the parking lot until traffic eases. Have a good time. I gave up my season tickets last year as the action on the track hasn’t been the same since the ‘chase’.

  8. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Rich, I feel that Big Dale and the type of Cowboy , and I don’t mean the Michael Irvin variety, but instead the John Wayne Variety are disappearing and I argue like a lawyer for the future, but, what do we win?

  9. tyler west Says:
    February 9th, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I agree. The greats of the sport would not believe what Winston Cup racing has become. I know I will never again seen seen the glory days of Nascar but it would be nice. I’m tired of team racing, out of bounds, politically correct drivers, cell phone companies, Brian France, rule change after rule change, and last but not least I am sick of the Chase! It is garbage that the season Champ is decided over a mere 10 race stretch. In my opinion a true champ does it over the whole season. If that person runs away with it so be it. Oh and could we get some more tobacco and alcohol sponsors and then run off all these “new” fans who have NO CLUE as to what really matters in stock car racing. Winning at all costs!

  10. Taxman Says:
    February 21st, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Yes, he was a great racer. However, it’s been 10 years already. Dale Sr. had a role to play, funding other drivers teams. Lets move on, and drop the “phony-ness”.