Hero’s from our past, relevant, idolized, enshrined and never forgotten.
I remember when I was a kid, April 1993 and my dad and myself we’re watching the Winston Cup in Bristol. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…this being Sunday, not 3 days before…on Thursday, one of my hero’s, Alan Kulwicki is dead in a plane crash leaving a public appearance in Tennessee.
This was the first time in my life, that I realized someone I looked up to…immortalized, revered could actually die. It was confusing and sad. I watched every news channel I could to find out more. These we’re the days before internet so I was glued to the screen and raced through every page of the newspaper.
Alan drove the number 7 Hooters Ford Thunderbird to a Championship victory in ’92 and in ’93 he was gone. I was stunned.
3 months later here we were again. My dad and I watching Talladega, but this time with a new hero. Davey Allison. The #28 Havoline Ford Thunderbird was due to be tearing up the tracks in search of a win.
I watched in absolute horror as they spoke about him. “On his way into the Talladega infield, Davey Allison’s helicopter pitched nose up and crashed. Davey was removed from the aircraft but succumbed to his injuries yesterday at Carraway Methodist Medical Center.”
Stunned was not even a word that would come close to what I was feeling. In 3 months, 2 of my hero’s…gone…
I still have the newspaper clipping.
I watched them both race in Michigan and being a fan of Ford, coming off a Winston Cup Champion…this was supposed to be our year. Instead shrouded by death, Dale Earnhardt in the #3 Chevrolet took the cup.
I watched him do a “polish victory lap” and at that point Dale was my new driver, my new champion and my new hero.
Now, anyone who follows Nascar, knows where I’m going with this.
It’s Feb. 2001 and I was on the VIA Rail train #14 on my way to Halifax. We just pulled by Lambert Quebec when I got a call from my dad. Dale Sr. while racing with his son Dale Jr at the ’01 Daytona got tangled up with Schrader and they both went into the wall. Dale was dead. The Nascar circuit was shocked.
After this I turned back to the Ford Camp. For 8 years I refused to cheer on a Ford. I even ignored the fact that Ricky Rudd was hired to drive the Havoline car and also ignored the 1999 Jarrett Cup win for Yates Racing.
I was always a Ricky Rudd fan…and I think deep down inside…he became my new hero although I wouldn’t admit it. It wasn’t until 2003 when I couldn’t help but cheer on a new king. I was amazed as I watched the #17 Dewalt Ford driven by the guy who beat out Dale Jr for Rookie of the year take the cup. I gave in and to this day, Matt Kenseth is still my favourite driver, my favourite car and my new hero.
There have been a lot of deaths in racing. Scotty Baker, Greg Moore, Ayrton Senna, Adam Petty, Gilles Villeneuve and more recently Rafael Sperafico, Wanda Philips, Eric Medlen and now Mark Niver this past July. Mark built his own car, and ironically, it was his passion that killed him. Of course, these are only a few of the many…here’s a list by wikipedia:
It’s amazing to think, that even with all the safety features this could happen. Yet it does, over and over again. I race my car, my girlfriend, friends and family all support me, I take all the safety precautions and try to do things right. I don’t think about accidents, fireballs, hitting the wall or losing control. I think about going fast, beating the other guy and having fun.
I guess as with everything, there is a dark side to anything. This is my little tribute to my hero’s of the past…Alan, Davey, Dale and Greg…thank you…
Aug 05th by Bannon