The date was Feb. 15, 1998, a date that many of us NASCAR fans vividly remember, as if it happened yesterday.
It would be remembered as a special date, not only to Dale Earnhardt Sr’s devoted fans, but especially to one particular fan who was in attendance.
A fan that many of us already knows, because of what transpired on that magical, but yet very special day.
It would be a day that would change the mindset of those involved, and the reason was because of one special 6-year-old girl.
At an age when most young girls are more interested in playing with Barbie dolls, or playing with other girls their own age, this wasn’t the case for 6-year-old Wessa Miller who not only enjoyed sitting back watching NASCAR racing, but most all she loved watching her hero, Dale Earnhardt Sr.
She is the little girl who is still suffering from spina bifida, a birth defect that doesn’t allow the spinal cord to fully develop, which in turn usually means that the infant will spend all of their life in a wheelchair.
It's very hard on the parents, as well as the family because of the fact that she is confined to a wheelchair and needs special attention to not only tend to her everyday needs, but also the rigorous therapy schedule that goes along with it.
While going through the pain and agony of taking her to appointment after appointment, therapy session after therapy session, her parents decided to contact the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and see if they could bring some kind of comfort to their ailing daughter's life.
A life of unknowing, as well as a life of constant battles while being to young to realize that she will most likely have to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
On the day of the 40th running of the Great American race, she was here to meet none other then The Intimidator himself.
What a joy it must have been for her and her family. I’m sure that for these few short moments, all the pain that her and her family had gone through since childbirth, was all wiped away at the sight of the man who was her biggest hero.
The Make-A-Wish foundation has made many dreams come true for kids just like her, and Feb. 15 would be no different.
On that day they both had something in common, which were the obstacles in there lives that had been with them since childbirth.
Before the end of the day Earnhardt would finally get over the hurdle that consumed him year after year, without ever realizing that this special little girl would play a big part in him overcoming his obstacle.
As she slowly made her way to finally get to meet her hero, with a twinkle in his eye, and a devilish grin on his face there he was standing there bright as the morning sunshine.
Earnhardt was in one short moment, the apple of this young girl’s eye even though he was known as one of NASCAR’s most feared drivers.
Before the race would begin, little Wessa would put all of her faith in one small copper penny, telling The Intimidator himself that this copper penny would bring him luck, and that he would win the 500 on that day.
Where that copper penny came from never matter, but instead all that mattered to her was that her hero was finally going to win the big one.
The one race that had eluded him in years past causing heartbreak and agony, today he would be one with her, feeling the same agony that she would have to endure the rest of her life.
As Earnhardt strapped himself into his race car, he glued that lucky penny right on his dashboard where he could see it lap after lap.
As the race started, and the laps began to tick away Earnhardt was his usual dominating self, taking full control of the race.
But it was always the last few laps where destiny would take over, and deny him entrance into a place that he always hoped and dreamed about.
As Earnhardt was clicking away the laps while looking at that copper penny stuck to his dashboard, he had to know that he was racing for a little girl who was going through a life of constant torment and pain.
That if this little girl could have enough faith in that copper penny for him to win, and then maybe he too could finally overcome his own obstacle while at the same time taking the pain away from this young girl, even if it was just for a moment.
Lap after lap, Earnhardt raced like a man on a special mission while looking at that penny.
What a great relief it must have been when Earnhardt finally crossed the finish line in front of the other 42 drivers as the checkered flag waved, and the celebration that had eluded him all those years would finally begin.
It kind of makes one wonder just exactly was going through his mind, as he looked at his dash and seen that lucky penny.
Here was 6 year old Wessa Miller, telling The Intimidator himself that he would win a race that he had lost 19 times before.
What a great celebration it was in victory lane, and not only for Earnhardt, but also for Wessa Miller, who got to see her hero win the biggest race of his career.
Earnhardt never met Wessa Miller before that morning of the race, she had all the faith in his destiny that he could do something that probably seemed impossible at one time.
Anytime the 40th running of the Great American race is talked about, anytime we as NASCAR fans talk about Sr.’s one and only Daytona 500 win, you can’t help but remember the story of the copper penny.