FOR THE LOVE OF DALE
By Rev Pat Evans - Racing With Jesus Ministries
And Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down
life for his friends." (John 15:13) We loved Dale Earnhardt so much.
Dale Earnhardt was not driving as he normally would on Sunday. At the end of
the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt was not driving for himself. He was driving
for the benefit of his driver who hoped to win his first race ever, Michael
Waltrip, and for the benefit of Dale's son, Dale Earnhardt, JR.
Dale ended-up giving his life for the love of his son and his driver. The
man whom so many always thought was a self-centered track bully was, in
reality, not that at all. He had become a good husband to Theresa and
although sometimes stern, a good father to his children.
There was much love. Dale was a disciplinarian. He made his kids earn their
way in their racing careers. But he knew that if the kids were to be
successful, they must develop the character necessary to enjoy that success.
I remember when Dale, JR attempted to qualify for his first BGN race at
Hickory Motor Speedway years ago. He didn't make it. He also did not have
the best equipment. He was dejected and disappointed. I spoke with him in
the little hauler. At first I wondered why his dad did not get him the best
of everything, but then I realized. Dale, SR knew that his boy must make it
on his own to be able to enjoy the chance he would have to earn. Dale
Earnhardt, SR knew the real meaning of tough love.
Dale SR was at the very first BGN race at New Hampshire years ago. As he was
helping to push the car to the garage, I came over and lent a hand. I
Dale I hate to bother you, but.." That was as far as I got as he replied,
"Then don't." I said, "Well, I've overcome it and decided to
anyway." He laughed. I wanted to make sure he knew when and where Chapel
Service would be held, knowing that he rarely attended.
The Chapel was in the same place as the Driver's Meeting on that day. He was
real involved talking with Kyle Petty in the back of the room. Kyle was
staying for Chapel. Whenever I saw Dale there I smiled to myself and said,
"Let us pray." We never begin a Chapel like that, but I figured he
move if we had already begun. And he looked up at me with a knowing smile
and then bowed his head. He knew what I was doing.
A year or so after, his crewman David Smith, a strong Christian man,
ended-up leading a service which Dale attended. And his wife Theresa
insisted that the family go to church. So, they went back to St. Mark's
Lutheran where Dale's late father Ralph had gone.
I know that right now, Dale Earnhardt, SR is in heaven with other greats
like Richie Evans, Fireball Roberts, Butch Lindley, Kenny Irwin, and, of
course, Adam Petty. However, standing in the presence of Almighty God,
Dale's days of being the greatest Intimidator are over. And know what, he
won't mind losing that title to our Father God.
Dale Earnhardt perplexed and angered other drivers. He was there to win. He
irritated NASCAR from time to time, but he never shied away from telling the
truth as he saw it. He had an awesome sense of humor which was often hidden
by his inward nature. Dale Earnhardt is a lesson to all of us in character,
truthfulness and strength. We will see Dale again at that great day of our
Lord's return and we can comfort one another with that thought. For me, I
admired his good qualities. I know that the full-size stand-up of Dale which
is in my cellar will be forever treasured as will me personal memories of
"The Man in Black."
If Dale Earnhardt, SR had been racing his best to win the 2001 Daytona 500
this probably would not have happened. He would have worked his way around
his son and Michael Waltrip using his years of experience. Instead, he
gave-up the chance to win this coveted event in favor of seeing his boy and
his driver get the glory. He thought he was doing a giving thing because of
his love for them both. However, the awful result was the ultimate
expression of love as Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that
a man lay down his life for his friends."
To send cards and wishes, the family receives them at Dale Earnhardt, Inc.,
1675 Coddle Creek Highway, Mooresville, NC 28115. And to his long-time
friend and car owner Richard Childress at 180 Industrial Drive P.O. Box 360
Welcome, NC 27371-0360.