Motor Man and I were in Daytona for the entire week leading up to the 2001 Daytona 500. A friend of ours with “connections” had given us passes to several media events being held that week.
One of those was the IROC (International Race Of Champions) luncheon on Wednesday. A brief background: the IROC race featured identical (except for the color) Chevy Camaros. Drivers from several racing divisions were selected to drive in the IROC race, and a luncheon was held to determine the color car each would drive, as well as his starting position. These were determined by the spin of a wheel.
Motor Man and I were seated at the table with Nascar driver, Jeff Burton, which was fitting, since he’s also a native Virginian. The IROC race that year was sponsored by True Value, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation was also involved. After lunch and all the wheel-spinning was complete, the emcee announced that there was a young man there (through Make-A-Wish) whose wish was to meet Dale Earnhardt. He then asked Earnhardt to please come forward to meet and have his photo taken with this little boy;, I think his name was Travis, although I can’t remember for sure. But I’ll refer to him in this post as Travis.
Instead of just posing by himself with Travis for all those cameras, Earnhardt asked all the drivers at the luncheon to come forward. He wanted Travis to meet and have his photo taken with all of them. Motor Man and I were impressed that Dale didn’t “hog” that spotlight for himself. I was blinking back tears to the point that Jeff Burton leaned over to us and asked if Travis were our child.
I wasn’t sure if we’d be allowed to take photos at the luncheon, so I only had one of the little disposable cameras in my purse. This isn’t a good picture, but I wanted to share it because it reminds me of the compassion “The Intimidator” showed when meeting that little boy. (That’s Dale in the yellow shirt.)
I’ve blurred out Travis’s face, since, obviously, I don’t have permission to post his picture. But I’ve always remembered what he said while the photos were being taken: “I’ve always wanted to meet Dale Earnardt, and now I have.”
Motor Man and I were in the stands on Sunday for the Daytona 500. Since our seats weren’t very good, we left early. We decided that we could enjoy the race more by listening to it on the car radio as we started our trip back to Virginia. We were in Savannah when Dale Earnhardt’s death was announced.
One of our first thoughts was of Travis and how his wish had come true.