Race Tales: Celebrating Ten Years of NASCAR Memories (2001)

Here, in its unedited entirety, is "Race Tales," a story I wrote in late 2001. On this page, you will find out more about my NASCAR fandom than you ever would care to know; it surprises me in hindsight! I have yet to revise it at all since then, but while I might update it later on, I felt the need to post it in the meantime. All 23 segments are included and presented to be read from top-to-bottom, including ten race reviews and the original side-notes written to aid its flow.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

An Unfortunate Change

In the preseason, Miles and I found that all of our favorite drivers had remained on their same teams, yet Marlin’s and Nadeau’s were slightly altered. While Nadeau’s only change was a new sponsor, Sterling Marlin had been selected to be one of ten drivers to drive new race-modified Dodge Intrepids as part of the manufacturer’s return to the series in nearly twenty years. Marlin’s car also took on a new silver paint scheme, one that was unlike any other on the track at the time! Another change had occurred in televising these races when aforementioned broadcast stations FOX and NBC gained exclusive rights to the full season.

Little did anyone know that a more unexpected change was not far away.

On February 18, 2001, on the last lap of the season-opening Daytona 500 at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway, Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sped across the finish line in first and second respectively, ending what had been a thrilling race. Moments before, reporters caught glimpse of an accident in the final corner. Soon after, Miles and I found out that Dale Earnhardt and Ken Schrader were involved in the wreck, their cars having made contact during the frantic late-race moments before ramming head-on into the outside wall and sliding to a stop in the infield grass. Only two hours after Michael Waltrip celebrated his very first Winston Cup victory in 463 career starts, doing so along with his brother Darrell via radio still in Daytona’s press box, Miles and I learned from ESPN that while Schrader had survived the accident, Earnhardt had not.

It was truly a tragic event. Even while Sterling Marlin, who had been running alongside Earnhardt at the time of the accident, was blamed by some fans for causing the crash due to contact the two made after Earnhardt lost control, both Miles and I were able to take the situation better than we originally expected.3 We mourned with the rest of the nation, but refused to let it take away from the sport Earnhardt so dearly loved. After a solemn Dale Earnhardt, Jr. only days later declared that any accusations for the accident would not be tolerated, Miles and I decided to still continue to support the sport, something we were sure that Earnhardt would have wanted all Winston Cup fans to do.

With this still lingering on the mind of every Winston Cup fan, my tenth year as one such fan began.


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