NASCAR Heavyweights Share Thoughts on an Icon, Dale Earnhardt

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2011

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 21: Team owners Richard Childress (L) and Rick Hendrick (R) speak prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway on June 21, 2009 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

For Brian France, CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, it was an important night at the NASCAR Hall of Fame when he announced the new policies for the upcoming season. It was also a time that he reflected on a man we knew as the "Intimidator."

France said, "So as we get to Daytona, we get closer, we'll also remember one our greatest stars. It was 10 years ago we lost Dale Earnhardt, one of our fiercest competitors. Dale helped build this sport and make it what it is today and his legacy lives on." 

France added, "So we'll join all of Dale's fans and his family and we will remember what he meant to all of us."

Richard Petty, the other NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) seven-time champion, spoke of Earnhardt. He said, "Dale came along at the right time. He took us to another level.  Again, he came along at the right time with the right personality to do what needed to be done in NASCAR."

Ned Jarrett, the NASCAR champion who will be inducted in the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year offered his thoughts on the racing champion who was gone too soon.

Jarrett said, "Dale Earnhardt Sr. was a chip off the old block. I built respect for him when I saw that he was going to be following in his dad's footsteps. He was a working man's hero.  He never tried to be anything he was not, I respected that."

Jarrett added, "The man could handle a race car as good or better than anybody that I've ever seen and used it to good advantage. He knew how to intimidate and that was good.  He knew how to work his competition and was just a tremendous competitor in every phase of the sport. He was just so good in so many different ways."

At Hendrick Motorsports the boss, Rick Hendrick, shared many stories about Earnhardt.  As far as his effect on NASCAR, he said, "His leadership in the garage area was something he quietly would go in the trailer and talk to them about things he saw, but everybody in the garage knew he was the leader and looked up to him."

Hendrick smiled when he said, "If he got in a wreck with somebody, he would put his arm around them and make them feel good about it."

The respected team owner went on to say, "He was an amazing talent, I'll tell you that. He was just such an icon in that he was old school, he was giving young guys advice and NASCAR would listen to him. He was very smart."

Hendrick continued, "He left a void in our garage area and that's what you miss a lot.  There's a lot of equals in there, but very few people that everybody looks up to that's been there forever, got the talent and still everyone feared him."

An emotional Richard Childress still has an open wound when it comes to the loss of his driver and his best friend.

Childress said, "So many people knew Dale Earnhardt the race car driver, but they also knew him as a person that worked on his farm throwing hay and tending his cattle. He worked everyday and he enjoyed it, that's what fans loved about him."

The owner of Richard Childress Racing said, "It doesn't matter where I go, I get questions about Dale Earnhardt. His legacy will live a long time in the sport."

The questions being fired at Childress by the media were obviously tough for him, but he acknowledged some things he must answer and talk about. He said he tries to block out the events of that day in 2001 and said, "What gets me through are the good times."

Childress added, "The things that Dale brought to us from the family and friendship side is always going to be hard to replace. He was a special person in a race car."

The man who fielded the famous black No. 3 said of Dale Sr, "One of the things he would always say is when it gets down to the last 50 laps, I want to win worse than anyone."

During the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, the owners and drivers were asked about their feelings on Earnhardt and the rapidly approaching 10th anniversary of the tragic day that we lost him at Daytona.

The answers were resoundingly the same. Clear and simple, the sport lost an icon and a void was left in the sport that may not ever be totally filled. 

There was only one Dale Earnhardt and as time goes by and we see a different style of driver evolve, it becomes more evident there will never be another driver like him.