That's how the 2011 edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona kicked off last Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, the first of MWR's two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test.
THE DAY: REMEMBERING DALE EARNHARDT FEATURES MICHAEL WALTRIP'S FIRST TV INTERVIEW ON EARNHARDT'S DEATH
Michael Waltrip: "I don't think human beings are designed to experience quite the range of emotion that I did that day."
February 18, 2001 ... a day in NASCAR history that still evokes pain, tragedy and disbelief unlike any other even a decade later ...
In honor of the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.'s death in the 2001 Daytona 500, SPEED examines NASCAR's darkest day in an exclusive, one-hour special titled The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt, premiering Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET. SPEED reflects on the tragic Sunday from sunrise to sunset, focusing on the day's events and emotions for everyone involved, as well as how that catastrophic moment forever changed the sport.
The program marks the first time Michael Waltrip has granted a TV interview regarding the death of his former car owner, friend and mentor. Waltrip won the 2001 Daytona 500, his career-first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in 463 starts, for Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) with then-teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushing him to finish second, and Earnhardt seemingly headed for a third-place finish while blocking for his two cars.
Waltrip relished the long-awaited win in a celebratory and emotional Victory Lane before learning of Earnhardt's passing. It would be 10 years before Waltrip could speak about that bittersweet day.
"I don't think human beings are designed to experience quite the range of emotion that I did that day ..." Waltrip said on The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt. "I just remember sitting in that chair (in the motorhome) trying to deal with what had happened and understand how I was supposed to feel ... I started wondering how I was supposed to feel at that moment and I haven't stopped wondering since."
Regarding the last meaningful time he spent with Earnhardt:
"... Walking to the grid," Waltrip added. "We weren't talking about strategy ... we were just being friends."
The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt takes viewers back to Earnhardt's last day, from the pre-race ceremonies during which he gave wife Teresa and son Earnhardt, Jr. what would be a final hug on the starting grid before climbing into his black No. 3 Chevrolet, to the race, the fatal accident in turn four and the aftermath.
The special also explores Earnhardt's history at Daytona, his relationship with car owner Richard Childress, his family, his DEI race team, his close friendship with Neil Bonnett, who died at Daytona in 1994, and other key players and events in Earnhardt's life and career. Additionally, a variety of NASCAR stars and celebrities recount where they were when they first heard the news of Earnhardt's death.
The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt will replay multiple times throughout Daytona Speedweeks, including Feb. 18 at 10 p.m. ET, immediately following SPEED's live broadcast of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Daytona (7:30 p.m. ET; NCWTS Setup with Krista Voda at 7 p.m. ET).