This weekend, the 2016 NASCAR racing season will get started at the historic Daytona International Speedway. 

The Daytona 500, also known as the Great American Race, kicks off each Sprint Cup Series season. Since 2001, this weekend has always weighed heavy on the minds of long-time race fans. It was toward the end of this race, just 15 years ago, that the sport of stock car racing lost a hero.

One of the most feared drivers on the track, Dale Earnhardt was involved in a last lap crash that ended his life.

That day, I was on my way back from Legion Field after watching an XFL football game as the Birmingham Bolts hosted the Chicago Enforcers. We were listening to a radio station and heard the dreadful news. To this point, I had not been a fan of stock car racing. Regardless of the fact that I grew up living next to the Rickman family, Columbus, MS dirt track legends. Little did I know this news was to be a pivotal point in my life.

I was working an afternoon radio job in Mississippi at the time and each Monday morning we had a call with our companies’ format captain. He told us to make Dale Earnhardt the subject of our shows for the next few days. Take calls, play tribute songs, etc. So I did and was not prepared for what followed. I had grown men calling the station and crying. I realized that not only had the sport lost a legend and hero but for devoted fans of the black #3 car, they had lost a family member.

Dale Earnhardt and the dedicated people who watched his every move, unknowingly made me a fan of the sport. For that, I thank you.

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