Race Weekend Central

“Dale” A Film for Earnhardt Fans & Non-Fans Alike

My girlfriend loves me. I’m not sure why; I’m not that great looking, I’m moody, I probably don’t buy her gifts often enough, wait, strike the “probably” part, and I don’t particularly care to share one of her favorite pastimes; going to the movies. I can’t pinpoint the reason(s) I fail to appreciate two hours in the theatre, but I think it has something to do with having to plan ahead, blocking off a portion of my not-very-busy schedule and sitting still for an extended period of time.

Problem is, Kristin loves them. If it were up to her we would spend every Saturday afternoon at the matinee seeing something along the lines of The Nanny Diaries (which by the way, isn’t half bad). So it was a masterful stroke on her part three months ago when she bought tickets to the movie Dale. I mean, what better way to combine her passion with mine?

Dale, a CMT Films/NASCAR Images joint, is a poignant, and surprisingly introspective, look at the life and career of Dale Earnhardt. And make no mistake, this is no 3. For all that ESPN does well (read: all-things-baseball, World Series of Poker, 25-straight hours of college football coverage) they can’t produce a made-for-TV-movie any better than I can sit through Sense and Sensibility with the aforementioned female.

Dale is one of those documentary-type films that touch you. It makes you want to get in a driver’s seat. You leave charged up; you leave wanting to see more; you leave wishing you had lived the rough-and-tumble life on the NASCAR circuit, circa 1987. And you leave with a sense of loss.

I was not an Earnhardt fan in the days of my youth. Darrell Waltrip was my guy and, well, you all know how you feel about “your guy.” Truth is, I didn’t care much for Earnhardt one bit. He and Darrell were chief rivals back then (Richmond ’86 still irks me) which made that yellow-and-blue Wrangler ride the bane of my existence. I painted Matchbox cars with model paint to resemble the hulking V8s I viewed on television back then.

I painted the No. 11 Budweiser Chevy, the No. 5 Levi Garrett Chevy, Quaker State’s No. 26 Buick and Tim Richmond‘s Folgers machine, but I never painted one of my cars to match the Wrangler or GM Goodwrench schemes. No way.

Thing is, as I grew I learned to respect the man behind the wheel of the No. 3 for his God-given talent, his doggone determination and for what he represented in NASCAR’s pantheon of heroes. He was a regular guy like us, as Dale so plainly illustrates. Hell, I even cheered when he finally won his 500. Of course, I also mourned along with the rest of you when he passed on. It was then, in martyrdom as is often the case, that I came to truly appreciate his greatness.

The film Dale will make its television debut this Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. ET on CMT. It will re-air at the same time on the proceeding two evenings. If you are a fan of racing, be it stocks, open wheels, dragsters or anything in between, and have not seen Dale, I believe it’s time you tuned in and learned just what a real racing legend is.

From the nastiest wreck you’ve ever seen anyone walk away from (Pocono, ’82) to serene moments spent flippin’ a buzzbait, this revealing film covers it all: The Richmond race that ushered in the Age of Ironhead, shots of a young Dale Earnhardt Jr. vying for his father’s attention in victory lane and an even younger Taylor Nicole bringing out the unfeigned softy in the man dubbed “The Intimidator.” This Teresa Earnhardt-Richard Childress collaborative effort pulls footage from inside the garage and inside the home to document the last true American hero: Dale Earnhardt.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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