By HEATHER WILLIAMS
2:25 PM CST, February 18, 2011
For NASCAR fans, this is the biggest day of the year. Marked on the calender the minute a champion is crowned at the season ending race. Daytona, the Super Bowl of racing.
No one knew, no one could have known, that the third Sunday in February ten years ago, would be a race that would change the sport for ever. It would be the day that one of the sports biggest stars, would stop shining. The day Dale Earnhardt would be killed.
To know me now, you would never know that there was a time that I absolutely hated NASCAR. I just couldn't understand the "sport" of cars going 190 miles an hour turning left for 4 hours. Which is why it's so strange that my television ended up on the Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001. It was the first NASCAR race I ever watched from start to finish.
It would be a interesting little story if I told you that was the day that I became a fan, but it wasn't. That wouldn't come for 3 more years. But what I did begin to understand that day is the passion that fans have for this sport. That the drivers aren't just numbers going around in circles on a track. Their personalities, are living color reflections of their own personalities. That's why the loss of Dale Earnhardt was so hard for fans, even if they were not fans of the #3 car. Fans lost either a part of themselves, or the villain that their love to hate, drove the passion they had for their own driver even more.
In the ten years since the Intimidators death, a lot has changed about the sport, But the core is the same. The passion, the competition, the love.
It's what makes the third Sunday in February so special, even one that was filled with such sadness, because that is what is what Earnhardt was racing for. It's what made him special. And what ultimately, made me a fan.
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