I Became a Fan When Dale Earnhardt Died

B BrandCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 29: Scott Speed, driver of the #82 Red Bull Toyota, races along side Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2009 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

I remember watching races with my dad when I was little. This was a long time ago, before Dale Earnhardt drove his famous black number three car.

As I got older, I'd often leave the house so my mom (the Rusty fan) and my brother (the Earnhardt fan) could have their usual debates all Sunday afternoon. I didn't consider myself a race fan, but I knew who Dale was. That afternoon, I came home before the race was over. I sat down figuring that I would watch the final laps. I remember seeing the wreck. I remember watching Mike Helton make the "we've lost Dale" speech. That's when it happened: I didn't know him...never met him...barely watched him race...but I felt like there was this hollow place inside...something was missing and would never be the same. Dale was gone. I went online that night, sitting at my computer, which was in the basement at the time. I sat there surrounded by Nascar memorabilia of both Dale and Rusty. Above the desk were three plates...one of them with Dale Earnhardt, that crooked grin on his face. I remembering looking at that picture and feeling sad that I'd never get the chance to watch him race...that a brilliant career had ended.

I've read a lot since then, watched a lot of old races my brother had taped, and became a fan of the sport. My brother has since moved 1,000 miles away and my mother has since passed away. It's back to me and my dad watching the races, just like when I was little. And once again, there's no Dale Earnhardt on the track.