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How Important was Dale Earnhardt?

Dave Aiello wrote, "We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the passing of Dale Earnhardt as a result of injuries suffered in a crash in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Our sympathies go out to his family, friends, and fans."

"Many so-called Popular Culture Web Sites are grasping for an explanation of the outpouring of grief at the death of Dale Earnhardt. Plastic.com cannot seem to bring itself to call NASCAR a sport without placing the word in quotation marks. Auto racing seems to get about as much respect as ice hockey does, from people who have never been exposed to either sport. Both sports are treated with contempt by people who feel that interest in them correlates with either a lack of education or low income."

"Yet, evidence of the impact that Dale Earnhardt had on society continues to surface. What do the cynics do when they find tributes like the one that North Carolina Governor Michael Easley's staff posted to his official Web Site? Remember, this is the state where Red Hat and SAS are headquartered."

"Clearly, auto racing is a part of the Southern culture and, to some extent, rural culture across the entire United States. It is worthy of respect, even as it searches in earnest for long-overdue safety improvements. We do not love racing, but we are smart enough to respect it, and to recognize one of its greatest champions of all time."

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