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Mourners pay their respects to Dale Earnhardt, family

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–Racing legend Dale Earnhardt was buried Feb. 21 at an undisclosed location after a service at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Mooresville, N.C., with only immediate family members attending.

A memorial service for Earnhardt was held at noon on Feb. 22 at Calvary Church, a nondenominational congregation in Charlotte.

Earnhardt, 49, was killed Feb. 18 when his car slammed into a concrete wall on the last turn of the last lap in the Daytona 500. He died instantly of head injuries suffered in the crash.

Earnhardt was a seven-time Winston Cup champion and the leader among active Winston Cup drivers with 76 victories. He had the most victories at Daytona International Speedway with 34.

“We’ll get through this,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. told ESPN. “I’m sure he’d want us to keep going, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Max Helton, a Presbyterian minister and founder of Motor Racing Outreach, told the Knoxville News Sentinel he prayed with Earnhardt just before the Sunday race.

“We held hands through his window,” Helton told the newspaper. “He says, ‘Just pray that I’ll be wise in putting the car at the right place at the right time and be able to drive with wisdom.’ And we did pray about that. And we did pray for safety.”

Later that day, Helton was in a prayer circle with Earnhardt’s wife, Teresa, and Richard Childress, the car’s owner — this time at a hospital with his old friend dead.

“If you look at that, I mean, God really watched over him, because he took him on,” Helton said. “You know, that’s the ultimate safety. He’ll never hurt again.”

Meanwhile, fellow drivers and team members took a day away from the NASCAR circuit Feb. 22 to remember Earnhardt.

“None of us were ready to let Dale go and we will miss him terrible,” driver Rusty Wallace told the Associated Press. “God only created one Dale Earnhardt and no one will ever replace him, neither in our sport or in our hearts.”

Stevie Waltrip, the wife of retired driver Darrell Waltrip, told The Tennessean that she had scribbled a Bible verse to Earnhardt just moments before the race.

It was a longtime pre-race ritual for Earnhardt. He had the verse taped to his dashboard when he fatally crashed on the last lap of the race.

“Years ago I started giving Dale a Bible scripture before each race and he had come to expect it,” she told The Tennessean. “Last Sunday before the race I was trapped back behind a big crowd of people in the infield and Dale and his wife Teresa looked back and saw me. They motioned me to come over, and just before Dale got in his car I gave him his scripture.”

It was Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man rushes to it and finds refuge.”

Earnhardt was nicknamed “The Intimidator” for his rugged driving style. But Waltrip said there was another side to Earnhardt that the public seldom saw.

“Inside, Dale was sweet and sensitive,” she said. “He was a wonderful person.”

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