Every year starts the same for me. Everyone has a clean slate. Everyone is pumped for the season to start. We are all patiently waiting for the green to wave.
I come into it with respect for Dale Earnhardt Jr., convinced this is the year I get over my dislike of him. Than it happens. I am reminded so very fast. He has fans.
I think the Junior is funny. I thought his dad was also hysterical. I love hearing the views of both Junior's and Senior's outlook for the sport. I love their TV commercials.
I love what Dale Sr. built in his life, and was disappointed when Junior was cut out of the DEI picture. The one factor that was the same with both of them was the disrespect that some of their fans show for the sport as a whole.
I am not talking about Richmond this year with Junior and Kyle Busch. I am not talking about the two Bristol tangles Senior had with Terry Labonte. What I am talking about is much more serious.
No NASCAR fan will ever forget the 2001 Daytona 500. I did not love Senior on the track, but the pure respect I had for the guy left me hollow inside for weeks. I could think of nothing else for the first three days after.
One thing out of it severely tainted that dark time even more: the threatening letters from Senior fans to Sterling Marlin.
Sterling was a clean racer, one of the more respected drivers in the sport at the time. There would have been no reason for him to put Senior into the wall intentionally. It was not for the win, it was for position.
Some fans did not see it that way. Even in that dark time, pure logic could not overcome the mindset that someone needed to be blamed. How else could a legend die?
Then we come to today. I was reminded of it this morning on NASCAR Raceday. Kyle Busch said yesterday in his post race interview that he was giving the ailing Sam Ard $100,000 to help offset the expenses while suffering from Alzheimer's.
As John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer, and Kenny Wallace asked the fans this morning to applaud Kyle for the gesture, they panned the camera to the audience. There were the "die hard Junior fans" shaking their heads and booing.
I couldn't believe it! I rewound the DVR multiple times, to be sure there were no flies around the guys head, or that the other guy wasn't about to sneeze or something. My heart sank.
It was a gut reaction to a moment in time, that shallow people cannot get over, no matter what the issue. Instead of images of Sam, there was just Junior visiting a wall off of Busch's bumper.
Don't get me wrong, I respect the Earnhardts themselves. I respect the true fans they have. Maybe I just see more of the wrong fans because they have an enormous fan base, so proportionately there would be more of the bad type of fan.
They are the fans that I do not want to be associated with.
For more information on how you can help Sam Ard, visit www.NASCAR.COM/foundation.