Saturday, May 05, 2007

Remembering the Intimidator

Tonight Diane and I went with two friends to see Dale, the documentary about Dale Earnhardt Senior (to see the trailer, click here ). To get tickets I had to go and test drive a Chevy (I drove a $31,000 Silverado pickup), and I have to say that movie was WAY more than worth the time that it took to do that test drive. Whether you are a race fan or not, the story was compelling enough that you would enjoy yourself the whole time, and for me, it really was one of the most enjoyable movies I have ever watched. The Carolina Theatre here in Greensboro was nearly full, which was cool to see.

The things that I appreciated about the movie were the ways that it showed what a regular, “everyman” that Dale Sr was, and what a great sense of humor he had. On the track he intimidated and dominated, and off the track he fed his cows and farmed his land. There were also some very sad and poignant footage of Dale Junior as a kid, watching his dad from afar at the track and in victory lane, longing to be noticed and invited closer but not receiving that. It made me sad for him, and I could see why he was so driven to succeed in racing, seeing it as a way to get closer to his dad. I also see the everyman quality in Junior today – he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, takes racing for what it is, and shoots straight with people.

I can understand now why Teresa Earnhardt is reluctant to sell the majority share of DEI to Dale Jr, too. She was Senior’s business partner, helping him build that company from the ground up, and I think that she really had a lot to do with its success. To put herself in a minority ownership position after all that would be hard.

There was great racing footage, too, and it was interesting to see how dominant DEI was becoming as a race team, with Senior, Junior, and Michael Waltrip. Had he not died, there’s not telling what that outfit would be now.

We laughed a lot, and everyone cheered when Dale finally won the Daytona 500 in 1998 (I remembered watching that race in my living room, pounding my basketball into the floor during the final laps). And the last line was classic. It was during the credits, and Senior was filming a “how to be a considerate driver” piece (it seemed like it was for young race drivers). He was talking about looking out for people around you and checking your mirrors, and then he said, “And if you see that it’s Jeff Gordon, put that sum-bitch into the wall.” A roar went up, the lights came on, and it was time to go home. What a fun night.

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