Time stood still.
No one moved or breathed.
No one believed that The Intimidator was mortal.
Certainly he’d walk away from what looked initially like an innocuous hit into the wall.
This was Daytona, the track that Earnhardt won consistently at and even had captured a 500 victory three years previously.
A collective gasp was heard.
A line was drawn – events that happened before February 18, 2001 and after.
The day Dale Earnhardt died.
Accidents happen, but he’d always walked away able to race the next time.
Lives forever changed that fateful day.
Dale Earnhardt will never be forgotten.
His indelible mark is as palpable today as it was then.
Then Earnhardt had as many detractors as fans. Fans would boo, jeer, and argue what a terrible competitor he was. A cheat, some would say, or a thug on the race track. Fans of Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, and many other drivers couldn’t stand Earnhardt.
But when he was gone the enormity of Earnhardt’s death reverberated across NASCAR Nation and beyond.
Flags still fly proudly with the “No. 3” and Dale Earnhardt signature. His fans – ardent, loyal, passionate – still remember.
He was so much more than a NASCAR star.
Earnhardt was a sports icon, a business entrepreneur, a farmer, a sponsor’s dream, a winning driver, a champion who tied King Richard Petty’s seven championships.
Earnhardt was a jokester, a fierce competitor, and a loyal friend.
He was a husband, business partner, hunter, and a father.
His legacy has made him immortal.
The name Earnhardt will forever be associated with racing – NASCAR – and a host of positive things in the world as his family’s reach is constantly expanding.
Fifteen years later and the landscape has changed immensely.
The one thing that has not changed is the allegiance shown by Earnhardt fans. There are endless stories of how Earnhardt touched their lives.
Others have entire rooms filled with Earnhardt memorabilia.
What every one of those fans has in common is their love, admiration, and adulation of Dale Earnhardt.
Fifteen years on, as much that has changed, the Earnhardt fans stay the same.