With Dale Earnhardt Sr., There Are No Comparisons

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IDecember 31, 2009

15 Feb 1998: Dale Earnhardt celebrates after winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
David Taylor/Getty Images

"When I stopped, I looked at it and got in the ambulance and looked back over there and I said 'man, the wheels ain't knocked off that car yet,'" Earnhardt said.

"I went back over there and looked at the wheels and I told the guy in the car to fire it up. "It fired up and I said, 'Get out. Unhook me, I've got to go."

"We took off after 'em. You've got to get all the laps you can. That's what we're running for the championship for."

These few sentences, are probably the most powerful words that any driver has ever spoken in the history of NASCAR.

What transpired on this day back in February 1997, was a scene that none of Hollywood’s biggest and most popular movie producers could have ever recreated.

This was not some occurrence that was pre-scripted, and it wasn’t thought out before hand nor was it acted.

But instead, this was a very real event that took place in the life of one of NASCAR’s most fierce and storied drivers, and miraculously not only did Dale Earnhardt Sr. walk away, he also climbed back inside his mangled car and drove it to a 31st-place finish.

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This was one of many illustrations that tells a short story of Earnhardt’s true personality, away from the carnage that he left behind.

Earnhardt had every reason to seek revenge on the driver who put him on his roof, but instead he causally walked over to Jeff Gordon and gave him a thumbs up, taking away any tension that might have existed.

Gordon, who had just won the 39th running of The Great American Race, admitted he was holding his breath wondering if Earnhardt was going to shake his hand, or punch him in the face when he walked in on his victory celebration.

"At the end of the race, when it was all over I see this mangled black [number] 3 car coming up and I said 'uh-oh, what's he gonna do',” said Gordon.

Its really too bad that most of the fans only choose to view Earnhardt by what was written, and that’s because they never had a chance to watch him skillfully race his way around the asphalt and concrete monsters of yesteryear.

Many times we try to re-enact the stories either from a book that we might have read or even a short news clip that only tells a small version of what really happened, while leaving out some key details that can always shed some new light on a very deceiving story.

The category that a lot of fans have chosen to put Earnhardt into, is one that does not tell the complete story of who this NASCAR legend really was both on and off the track.

Now is it fair to speculate or judge a driver because of a few on-track incidents, and only because a legion of fans decides to tab him as a bad boy?

The image of the man who was known as “The Intimidator,” lived up to his moniker, and it wasn’t always at the expense of another driver feeling the wrath from this seven-time Cup champion.

Earnhardt earned the nickname because of his rough style of driving, and the fear that he put into his fellow competitors, which was not always because he put another driver into the wall.

Earnhardt always showed extraordinary driving skills whether he was leading a race or not, and anytime he strapped himself into his No. 3 black and silver Chevrolet, the fans always knew that he was going to give them their money's worth.

Many of his fellow drivers might have felt that he was dangerous, but they never once doubted the skills that made him a hero during his 27-year tenure in the Cup series.

Determination was the driving force behind Earnhardt’s aggressiveness out on the track, which he would manifest into some of the most daring, and breathtaking moves that the sport has ever seen.

Earnhardt was unmatched when it came to showcasing his all-around car handling abilities, and being one of the most skillful drivers out on the track made him a crowd favorite wherever he raced.

Earnhardt set a standard that even today’s drivers are having a hard time reaching, and it could be because he was as close to the complete NASCAR package as they came.

We read the many stories of how this driver could be the next Earnhardt because of his attitude, or how that driver shows the same skills as Earnhardt, but yet in the end they all fall short.

Isn’t it ironic that whenever driver comparisons are discussed, the Earnhardt name always comes up first?

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