Time goes by quickly when we look to the past. 10 years ago was a dramatic time for
racing and myself. My column that was in BTW/LMA helped me grieve and was one of my most
commented columns. It means as much to me today as it did when I wrote it. - Mike
Things will never be the same
For just about every year since CBS started the live broadcasts of the Daytona 500, my
family has had some kind of celebration or get together and we would watch the race. It even became more
enjoyable 12 years ago when my youngest daughter was born on Daytona eve. During her first full day, we
watched the race in that small hospital room.
This year unlike most of the past 12 years when we had Birthday and Daytona parties in
the house, we had to shift gears. Family life is a busy life and with Basketball games and Confirmation
all falling on the race weekend, we adjusted our schedule. With the VCR running and with the race coverage
just starting we left the house.
All was going well up to this point, things went smooth in church and later we even won
a basketball game. I even had time to get home and watch the last part of the race. As I walked in the
door the massive wreck was just taking place. I was in awe as I saw Tony Stewart flipping, helplessly down
the track and seeing destroyed race cars sliding everywhere. With both Gibbs cars sitting next to each
other, I was relieved when Tony climbed from his car and everyone was safe.
After the carnage cleared and the race resumed I settled in for what seemed to be a
great finish. The last remaining laps, as we all know are history. The exuberance and euphoria of Michael
Waltrip winning his first race and Daytona 500 were quickly being extinguished by the tragedy that was
unfolding when Dale Earnhardt hit the wall. I knew quickly that it was not right. You could see the look
on Ken Schraders face during his post crash interview. The fact that the cameras stayed away from the car
and little was said about Dale caused concern. We all expected the worst.
A short time later our greatest fear was announced. I was truly stunned when I heard
that Dale Earnhardt had died. I was in shock. Those who know me well know that I'm a big fan. Dale
Earnhardt to me was a hero. He was the reason I still followed NASCAR as closely as I did. Heck, he was
NASCAR. I like the million of other fans could not believe that he was gone.
We cried that night. All my family and my closest friends called me to share their
disbelief. The best call as I look back, was from my Dad. While we talked, he tried to comfort my loss, as
he knew how I felt. He didn't talk long, as he could not. Just hearing his voice and concern helped a
That conversation with my Dad on that Sunday night would be my last, as he died the next
day. No matter how well you think you're prepared, you are not. I was in shock once more. He was a great
guy and father and even in his late hours, with his severely declining health, he thought of me. It is
said that, "Great men do not think of themselves but think of others". I know now, that this is very true
for both Dale Earnhardt and Eugene Ruefer.
Everything changes and life must go on. This year will be like no other as we mourn for
those who have gone before us. They would though, tell us to carry on and be strong. The race of life
continues but things will never be the same.
I will miss you both.