Sixteen years after Dale Earnhardt died I still remember him fondly daily, but especially on his birthday.
For those who never saw Earnhardt drive or be interviewed in their lifetime I’d like to explain, if possible, why Earnhardt’s mystique remains so potent so long after his departure.
As I pondered the question myself I came up with the Four Cs of Earnhardt, just like the 4 Cs of buying a diamond!
Because that’s what Earnhardt was, a diamond. Sometimes he was one in the rough, but in the later years Earnhardt was dazzling, rare, unique, and most precious.
And now, without further ado, are the Four Cs of Dale Earnhardt.
Charisma. A few definitions of the word charisma come from www.dictionary.com and are the following:
1. 1. Theology. a divinely conferred gift or power.
2. 2. a spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.
3. 3. the special virtue of an office, function, position, etc., that confers or is thought to confer on the person holding it an unusual ability for leadership, worthiness of veneration, or the like.
Earnhardt most certainly exuded charisma and definitely seemed to have been conferred a gift or power. His influence is so strong it has long outlasted his life on Earth. He was a leader and was and still is revered among a great many.
In addition, Earnhardt was a marketer’s dream. Tall, statuesque, strong physique, and with that ever-present signature mustache and twinkle in his eye, Earnhardt had that special something that led people to not only trust him but to like him, really like him.
People wanted to stand in a room with Earnhardt, be at his side when he was telling a story, and be the one he was hunting, fishing, boating, or partying. They wanted to wear what he wore, drive what he drove, fly his flag, and wear something with his colors, number, and signature.
Clever. In the world of NASCAR or racing of any kind, you have to be most clever to make a career. Earnhardt not only made a career but created an Empire for the Earnhardts.
Whether it was owning his signature and marketing it on everything from playing cards to nice jackets and everything in between, or grooming his son Dale Jr. to be in the same business, Earnhardt showed he was the cleverest in the garage.
Calculating. No doubt about it, Earnhardt was always figuring out how to use his racecar to win. That was the goal each and every week. I never remember Earnhardt talking about points unless his team was fixing the car in the garage and he was telling a reporter they were trying to get it back on the track to make up some points.
Earnhardt was about winning and doing anything and everything in his power to do so. He would scheme to find a way to use his car and his intimidation to his benefit.
Winning was important to Earnhardt. Winning poles, winning races, and, of course, winning championships, drove Earnhardt to stay focused and determined.
He finally won at the Daytona 500.
And, on the last day of his life, Earnhardt was calculating how to put his DEI drivers into Victory Lane at the Great American Race.
Character. Earnhardt was, without a doubt, a character in the NASCAR community, in the world of sports, and simply in the universe. He was well-known, respected, feared, loved, and cherished by his family, friends, competitors, and fans.
There are some who still might malign the man’s actions on the track, but usually that’s because they rooted for the driver Earnhardt beat that week.
But the fact that Earnhardt’s memory is so palpable to so many, his claim on their hearts so strong and pure, proves that his character was and is immeasurable.
Many who knew him say that when Earnhardt put his arm around your shoulder you knew you were in for something – counseling, advice, constructive criticism, or maybe a joke or a good word.
If Earnhardt was mad at you, you were certain to make it right as soon as possible. The only thing more intimidating than The Intimidator was when The Intimidator had a beef with you.
But Earnhardt had a huge capacity for love, a reputation for true friendship, and modeled hard work paying off in spades.
Earnhardt’s character was unquestionably the reason folks from all around, from all walks of life, looked up to and cheered Earnhardt’s No. 3.