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CNN Today

Dale Earnhardt Remembered at Daytona

Aired February 20, 2001 - 4:12 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The family of the late Dale Earnhardt announced their plans for memorials today. Also today, spontaneous tributes to the fallen stock-car legend are growing. Earnhardt will be remembered in private services tomorrow and Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Earnhardt family will attend both services. Close friends will be at tomorrow's service, and people connected to the NASCAR circuit will be in attendance on Thursday.

Earnhardt's body was returned to North Carolina last night from Daytona, where, of course, he died.

Race fans around the country continue to mourn Dale Earnhardt. CNN's Kyra Phillips is at the Atlanta Motor Speedway today, where several hundred people gathered this afternoon -- Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joie. We thought it was going to be several hundred, but actually it's several thousand people, as you can see -- a family just now. Everybody's coming up here and leaving flowers and balloons and pictures. And just to give you a bit of a perspective, a lot of the people here have seen Dale Earnhardt race. He raced 47 time here at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. He won nine of those races, and last year, he won the Cracker Barrel Old Country 500. That was his most recent win here.

Now, although these folks remember those races very well, they're also remembering his life. You can see they're signing banners to him, lighting candles. Over here to the right, Ashley and Megan brought a poem that they wrote and a special sign that they made. And all of these tokens plus the car is just a small sample of what's happening.

Also next to us in the Richard Petty Garden is a memorial service that's taking place, where two of the Atlanta Motor Speedway chaplains are lifting up Earnhardt's legacy and life and trying to lift up the hears of his admirers.

Let's listen in just for a moment.

EDDIE BARTON, ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY CHAPLAIN: Dale got out of the -- out of his car and started toward us over at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and he said, "Where's Glen at?" And my grandson said, "He knows me?" And I said, "Well, I guess he does. I guess he does." People, that's the way he made all of you feel. It didn't matter if you were a millworker. It didn't matter if you were the president or a CEO of a company, you felt like you were a part of that black No. 3 when it went around that race track.

My wife couldn't understand that. She couldn't believe any of that. She didn't like racing, but that was before she met Dale Earnhardt.

But I want you to know that day Dale came over and he took my grandson. He was running bad; he wasn't running good. But he took my grandson and carried him over there and put him on his knee and sat under that hauler and signed his hat, and said, "Now let's pose for a picture for papa."

That's what all of you remember about Dale Earnhardt. Dale Earnhardt was that kind of person. Everywhere where I met him, he was busy.

We just got through seeing him this weekend in Daytona. He was there for all of those things. Every time, he climbed out of the car, people from the media would leave whoever they were interviewing and to interview Dale Earnhardt.

PHILLIPS: Now, something that I learned about being out there today is that where a sport -- a sport like this -- definitely danger is the name of the game. Religion and spirituality are a big part of this community, a big part of these families' lives and a big part of the drivers' lives.

I learned from the chaplains who were speaking at this memorial service that there also is an organization called the Motor Racing Outreach. They're a nondenominational program that goes to all the races and holds a service in the garage, and all the drivers participate. No doubt, this Sunday in Rockingham, where the race is going to be, it's going to be a special service.

Joie, back to you.

CHEN: CNN's Kyra Phillips at the Atlanta Motor Speedway this afternoon.

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