Race Fans Forever
Legends Never Die
After seeing many of last week’s articles about the death of Davey Allison, I began thinking about the lingering effects a star’s untimely passing leaves on us all. During my time as a NASCAR fan, three deaths in particular have stood out as having a lasting effect on us all: Dale Earnhardt, Alan Kulwicki, and Davey Allison.
Like most fans, I remember how I first heard the tragic news about each driver. Just like most of you reading this, I saw Dale’s crash at Daytona in 2001 and thought nothing of it. Later that night, my family and I watched the news in shock as Dale’s tragic passing was announced. Nearly ten years earlier, I remember my mom picking me up from school and telling me the sad news that Alan Kulwicki had died in a place crash the day before. Later that same year, I remember Davey Allison’s helicopter crash at Talladega and hearing that he was in a coma. The next day, my mom and I were watching the news when it was announced that Davey Allison had died that morning. My dad was in the yard cutting grass, and I remember my mom running out the back door to share the sad news with him.
Even though other drivers have met an untimely end the deaths of these three seem to have a lingering effect. In fact, it would seem as if we have never really let go. Each of these drivers had qualities that made them extremely popular. Dale was the blue-collar everyman who rose from rags to riches, Alan was the underdog and defending champion who chose to go it alone despite overwhelming odds, and even though he was descended from racing royalty, Davey represented that gritty determination we all long for in a hero. Some will argue that we hold on because these drivers are from a bygone era and have never really been replaced, but I think the true reason goes deeper than that.
Every Sunday, we watch our heroes do things we can only dream of. The bang fenders at 200 miles per hour and defy death week in and week out only do it again the next week. As a result, we tend to think of them as one thing we are not: invincible. Therefore, when they exit on terms other than their own, a part of us simply refuses to believe it. That is why so many infields still feature plenty of Earnhardt flags and the Internet fills with tributes and articles every year around the unfortunate anniversaries of the deaths of Alan and Davey. Even though they no longer race on Sundays, we allow them to race on in our hearts.
I’m not going to borrow a page from Patty Kay and give you all a musical closeout. Here is a video of the song Drivers in Heaven by the Rolling Thunder Band. The song was written in the late 90s before Dale passed, but it does contain stirring references to both Davey and Alan. Enjoy.