Thursday, April 27, 2017

For NASCAR Newbies

I have been a NASCAR fan since I was a kid. I remember in the late '60's getting hooked on the crumbs of races they would show on Wide World of Sports. Usually little 10 or 15 minute segments recorded a week earlier. Here in Texas with no tracks nearby this was all we could get.

By the '80's races were shown live. At the time I didn't have any particular favorite driver. I liked Bill Elliot, remember seeing him win the 1985 Daytona 500 live driving a car just like mine. Later on in the '90's I had a handful of guys I pulled for: Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Jarret, Bobby & Terry Labonte, Joe Rutman and some kid named Jeff Gordon. I would be happy if any or all of them did well or won a race.

That all changed on February 18th 2001. That was the day I became a 'Hard Core, Card Carrying, Loyal, Passionate Member of Jr. Nation, the ONLY Nation'. On that day I saw a young man loose his father very suddenly and unexpectedly at an age when a young man needs to have his Dad there the most. I went through a similar ordeal when I was his age and my heart immediately went out to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and from that point forward I lived and died on everything he did. Once I chose 'my guy' I dove into the deep end and devoured everything I could about the sport and about my driver. I discovered that being a rabid fan of one driver is the only way to enjoy NASCAR. And I don't have enough time or room here to begin to describe the friendships and relationships I have made with fellow members of Junior Nation.

This week Dale Jr. announced this would be his last season driving full time. While I am sad for me that I only have the rest of this season to see him on the track I am overjoyed for him and his family that he was able to do it at a time of his choosing and in his own way. He will always and forever be MY DRIVER but beginning next year I will either have to go back to casually following a group of drivers again or see if one stands out and captures my loyalty like he did so long ago.

I can't tell anyone who to follow but I can show you why I became so passionate about Dale Jr. Here are three videos and a movie to help you understand the back story and give you an idea of how I got there:

FIRST: This documentary from SPEED channel came out in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of Dale Sr's death and the effect it had on the sport and on Dale Jr. Lots of the people are still very active in NASCAR today. LOTS of history here.



SECOND: This movie '3 - The Dale Earnhardt Story' starts with Grandpa Ralph. Some people don't care for this movie but from everything I've learned I have found it to be very historically accurate. Also gives a lot of history of the sport and shows how some of the legends became who they were.



THIRD: Sports Century on Dale Sr. Great point of view from his contemporaries and what made so many people either love him or hate him.



FOURTH: 'NASCAR Seasons: 2001' is a documentary from NBC Sports about all that went on in NASCAR and the world that year. Very powerful. Great summary to how I became a Dale Jr fan.



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