Text of letter from Teresa Earnhardt read by NASCAR president Mike Helton at Saturday night's ceremonies in which Dale Earnhardt was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame in Darlington, S.C.: To...
Text of letter from Teresa Earnhardt read by NASCAR president Mike Helton at Saturday night's ceremonies in which Dale Earnhardt was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame in Darlington, S.C.:
To teammates, competitors and associates, Dale Earnhardt became the ultimate leader. Throughout his career he was the focus of attention. Week in and week out, year after year, he gave his very best. Likewise, he expected and demanded the best in return. Dale repeatedly demonstrated that he was the man to beat. Whether in a Winston Cup car, a Busch Grand National car or an IROC car he continually succeeded to thrill and amaze all of us. He had a competitive spirit that may never be matched, yet he was compassionate as well. Many of you were fortunate enough to witness this first hand. The fact remains however that you could always count on Dale Earnhardt to give all he had to the sport. He was always good for an exciting story or a colorful quote.
Even now, Dale is still a leader. By being the first person to receive an immediate induction into the NMPA Hall of Fame, Dale's influence continues to set milestones.
This induction into the NMPA Hall of Fame ensures that Dale's unbelievable accomplishments will provide excitement over and over again for generations to come.
Acceptance speech on behalf of Earnhardt's family by his sister, Kathy Earnhardt Watkins:
I want to say that it is an honor to be here representing my family. My mother, Martha Earnhardt; sister, Kaye Snipes, and brothers Randy and Danny would like to congratulate the other inductees. I know if Dale were alive he would be on the front row praising each one of you for your help throughout his career. The France family has brought this industry through many changes and I know Dale's life was more for having been a part of those changes. He would want to thank you and congratulate you in receiving this honor.
A few years ago, our family attended this same gathering in honor of our father Ralph Earnhardt. Dale was then a champion in his own career and very well known in his style of driving and personality traits. But that night he attended as a son and a brother. We were all proud of this honor for our Dad. We also knew the day would come that we would honor our brother because of the contributions and sacrifices he was making to this sport.
I wish it had not come this soon, but that doesn't change the honor and pride we feel as a family. Our family is a racing family. All of us are not at the races weekly, nor do we share the fast-pace living that the weekly races require. Thank goodness for that. But at the same time we did not get to share in the day to day occurrences that Dale's whirlwind life involved.
He was very conscious of that fact that as a family we were used to an average lifestyle that could not always comprehend the enormous amount of time, commitment and sacrifices that were expected of him. He did his best to protect us from knowing how much pressure he was under and shared special times with us to try to make up for the loss of family time.
Each of you has family that you don't have the opportunity to speak to daily or even weekly and that was the case with Dale. What we did have was the media keeping us informed of his activities and accomplishments - boy what a trip we have taken through the media, informing us about every detail of his life (when they had the chance to talk to him). As a family we watched him grow as a person, driver, champion, husband, father and grandfather.
Watching Dale's life through the media is like taking a lap around Bristol and then Talladega - fast, furious, scary, passionate, gratifying, challenging, sometimes disappointing but always exciting.
We watched him learn to speak in front of a camera, reporters, large groups of people - politicians and even Wall Street. We did not always like what we read or heard, but that's the way Dale's life was - I still have friends who are Darrell Waltrip fans that won't let me forget Richmond. We watched him perform as a champion and accept defeat with humility. Because of you we have been part of his career that would not have been possible otherwise. The honor of his induction into this Hall of Fame will keep Dale forever a champion, young, healthy and his legacy alive forever.
As a family, we will be watching and reading and listening through Dale Jr. and Kerry's careers. And NASCAR will always be part of our lives.