I’m not a sports journalist. I’m not an ESPN authority—although I watch my fair share of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, etc. All I am is a sports-loving gal.
One of my loves is NASCAR. My family spends race day cheering for Dale Earnhardt Jr. We’re not fair-weather fans. We’ve been there from the beginning. Sure, we were fans of Dale Earnhardt Sr., so it seemed only natural to root for his son. However, his father is not the reason we stayed fans. Dale Jr. is the reason we stayed fans. His name could be Harry Backside and we’d still be right there, cheering him on.
With the holidays now upon us, this fan would like to take a moment and thank Dale Jr. It may seem silly to some, and that’s okay. In a time where criticism and judgment are the popular kids in school, I thought it right to bring a well-deserved, good old-fashioned pat on the back into the forefront.
Week after week, countless articles either blatantly jab at the man or enjoy subtly weaving the negative in with the positive. What for? He’s a man who has known profound heartache and loss; he’s a man who is living his life, giving back, loving his family, and doing his job to the best of his ability. What more can you ask of a human being? Maybe that’s the point: he’s only human, just like you and I.
Members of Earnhardt Nation frequently hear negative chatter about their driver. In particular, there are those who relentlessly question whether his heart is in racing. Some even suggested that Dale Jr. fans are now switching their allegiance to drivers who purportedly show more emotion and score more wins.
I’m certain Dale Jr.’s sentiment for the sport runs deeper than anyone could possibly imagine. He doesn’t have to throw tantrums or have a poor attitude to prove he cares. Wins are great, but they don’t mean near as much as other invaluable human traits.
Dale Jr. is no stranger to winning, and though the wins have been a little elusive as of late, they’re coming, no worries. Like everything in life, you just need to find your match, and whether it’s in love or business, it takes time.
There’s no question Dale Jr. has found his match in crew chief Steve Letarte. This season has given us quite a remarkable glimpse into the future. After all, finishing the Chase in lucky number 7 has to be a sign of what’s to come. Great things are in store for Dale Jr. and the 88 team. Now, let’s watch NASCAR work to bring back the old style of plate racing, where Dale Jr. can be Yoda Dale once more.
Fan or not, at the end of the day, shouldn’t it all come down to The Golden Rule? Dale Jr. is not some villain, nor is he a superhero. He’s a normal guy—the good kind. So, thank you, Dale Jr., for being real. Thank you for being you.