Life is not a guarantee. That’s a lesson learned hard this past week in NASCAR circles. The speculation has been unending since Dale Earnhardt’s death on Sunday in the Daytona 500: Is NASCAR unsafe? Could Earnhardt’s death have been prevented? Is Sterling Marlin to blame? Could an improved neck restraint system have saved Earnhardt? The answer to most of those questions is no. No one is to blame for Earnhardt’s death. Certainly not Sterling Marlin, the driver who tapped Earnhardt and sent him spinning into the wall. Contact is a part of NASCAR racing and happens all the time. I saw Earnhardt take several taps throughout the race and amazingly pull his car back into line. On the last lap he wasn’t so lucky, and that’s not Marlin’s fault. Blaming a seat belt manufacturer that’s never had a faulty seat belt ever seems kind of silly. Could more be done to make NASCAR safer? Maybe. The gentlemen could just not start their engines on Sunday morning and they’d be a whole lot safer. Of course they may get killed in a car accident on the way home. Life is simply not guaranteed and no helmet, seat belt, or effort of restraint is going to change that. People die. Period.
The difficult thing is accepting that and moving on. I walked into the grocery store tonight and Dale Earnhardt’s smiling, mustached face was standing next to a display of Oreos. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be there, and how many people know that a dead man is peddling oreos.