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TACH SPECIAL: Dale Earnhardt; The biggest name in the sport departs

By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor
Motorcar racing is a hazardous sport. Since the time that the first motorcar race was ever conducted the sport has lost and will continue to lose drivers to racing accidents. In spite of that acknowledgement it does not lessen the impact or reduce the sadness of the death of Dale Earnhardt.

Earnhardt was NASCAR's Elvis Pressley. Most everyone, who is old enough, remembers where he or she was when the news of Elvis' death was announced. Now we will add Earnhardt's name to that list in our memory.

The impact of losing one of NASCAR's icons will be felt in the days, weeks and months ahead. Earnhardt was the face of NASCAR. If stock car racing ever builds a Mount Rushmore his face will be on the mountainside. Whether you loved or loathed his aggressive driving style, Earnhardt was a racer. Pure and simple. Earnhardt never uttered the sentence in my presence but "Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way" would certainly characterize his presence on the track.

In the days, weeks and months ahead we, in the press, will no doubt canonize this once simple, yet driven, man from Kannapolis, NC. Raised in a racing family, Earnhardt learned stock-car racing from the inside out. His father Ralph, known as a rough and tumble type, taught Dale that no one looks out for you in life. That knowledge carried Earnhardt to such prominence in the sporting and business world that he leaves behind an empire built on the quest to be the best. How many people do you know own a seat on the New York and American Stock Exchange? Earnhardt may have come across to the unknowing as this "hick from the sticks." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now the racing world will gather around and we will embrace one another to find consolation. The races will be held and a champion will be crowned at season's end. But this year will just not be the same without the man from Kannapolis.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.