Senators Comments Published in Congressional Record
WASHINGTON, DC --- U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) today spoke in tribute to Dale Earnhardt. Senator Shelby's comments were published in the Congressional Record.
Tribute to Dale Earnhardt
February 27, 2001
Last October, Dale Earnhardt drove his familiar black Goodwrench Chevrolet, with the silver number 3 painted on each side, past a waving checkered flag to win the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The victory was Earnhardt's tenth first place NASCAR Winston Cup race at Talladega, a feat no other driver has accomplished. It was the 76th win of his career; sadly, it was his last.
A week ago Sunday, Mr. President, Dale Earnhardt died in a tragic accident on the last corner of the last lap of one of the last great American traditions _ the Daytona 500. NASCAR lost one of its greatest drivers who was in large part responsible for the tremendous growth of the sport from a regional pastime to an international success. Winston Cup drivers lost a fierce competitor whose aggressive style set the standard for a generation. Millions of fans lost the "Intimidator," a hero admired as much for his charismatic demeanor as his talent as a driver and tenacity during a race. Whether you cheered for him or against him, you couldn't help but admire the passion with which he pursued the checkered flag.
There is a bittersweet irony in that Dale Earnhardt finished his career at Daytona. The track at Daytona defined Earnhardt as a racer. He won 34 races there, more than any other driver. This earned him the reputation as the best superspeedway racer of all time. The Intimidator, however, didn't win the Daytona 500 until the 1998 season. It took 20 years, but he finally took the greatest of all superspeedway races.
Mr. President, no other measure of success was as elusive to Dale Earnhardt. In 1979, he beat Harry Gant, Terry Labonte, and Joe Milliken for the Rookie of the Year in one of the most competitive rookie battles ever. He joined Richard Petty as the only other driver to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship seven times. He was voted National Motorsports Press Association Driver of the Year five times. Dale Earnhardt was the only driver to win the Winston Cup title the year after winning the rookie title.
Although he did his best to live up to his nickname the "Intimidator" during a race, Dale Earnhardt was the first to extend a hand and offer congratulations after it was over. This is the mark of a true champion.
In Alabama, we looked forward to seeing the black number 3 car on the high banks at Talladega twice a year. No matter where he started at the beginning of the race, you could count on Dale Earnhardt to be near the front by the end. Though he often expressed frustration with restrictor-plate racing, Dale Earnhardt mastered the art of drafting so well that fellow racers remarked, "he can see air." His victories at the world's biggest and fastest track include, as I mentioned earlier, ten NASCAR Winston Cup races, as well as one NASCAR Busch Grand National race and three IROC races where he bested the greatest drivers of his time.
He was intensely loyal to his family. He was a father whose pride in his children was greater than his desire in winning races. Our thoughts are with wife Teresa, and his children: Kerry, Kelly, Dale Jr. and Taylor Nicole. May God bless all of them and watch over them in this time of need.
Former driver and now television analyst Darrell Waltrip perhaps best captured the sentiment of drivers and fans alike when he said, "The scariest thing on the track used to be seeing Dale Earnhardt in your rear view mirror. Now the scariest thing is not seeing him there at all."
Mr. President, the world will miss Dale Earnhardt and his competitive spirit. We pray that his family and friends find some comfort in the way his fans admired this truly unique American sports icon.