The Final Word – Talladega Produces the 100th Cup Victory by an Earnhardt

Family. Why do we watch these races, even the most boring among them when there are so many other things we could be doing? It is our sense of family that keeps us tuning in.

It is similar as to why fans of the Chicago Cubs endure the disappointment, year after year. That would be due to sticking with their beleaguered “family” members over the seasons. You know, such kin as Hack Wilson, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Bruce Sutter, and Ron Santos, to name just a few from the past. Their highs and lows on the field were their fans’ highs and lows. They were all in it together. They still are.

In NASCAR, it is also all about family. It was started by a family and has featured such families as the Pettys and Allisons. We were thrilled by their success and crushed by their tragedies. They were and remain a part of us.

Thus, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a decade-long drought at a track he once ruled to win his sixth race at Talladega on Sunday, one of our own had come through. This is a track on which his late father triumphed ten times and this is where his boy had a run of four in a row. When Dale Sr. died, a lot of fans adopted the lad as a son or brother. We mourned with him, we mourned for him, and we followed him. It just dawned on me that I am 18 years older than Junior, old enough to have been his dad. Not a good one, mind you, not at that age, but old enough. I would rather like to think I would have made one hell of an older brother.

Family. When the car was not so good at Richmond, Greg Ives had some explaining to do. Not to Junior, not to owner Rick Hendrick, but to his eight-year-old daughter. She does not take such disappointments lightly. Last week, she suffered a bad break near her elbow, and the driver offered his crew chief a chance to fly home to be with her. However, a certain eight-year-old told her daddy to stay right where he was. Ives had a job to do, and on Sunday he and Junior completed the task by winning at Talladega. It was Ives’ first on the box, the 24th victory for the racer over his Cup career and, yes, the 100th Cup victory by an Earnhardt.

It would seem that one of the toughest people associated with this team spent the weekend back in Charlotte mending and cheering on her favorite crew chief and driver. She no doubt will be doing the same this Saturday night when her daddy and his friend are in Kansas. That day also marks the 23rd anniversary of when I first met my wife, Amy, and on that day we will be celebrating my niece Katie’s third birthday. Yes, we will be spending Saturday following that good ole NASCAR tradition. We will be with our family here as we watch members of our other family race in Kansas.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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