Salazar Feels Loss Of Earnhardt
February 23, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Eliseo Salazar will drive the No. 14 in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series this season, the same season Dale Earnhardt would have piloted his familiar, black No. 3 in Winston Cup.
That bond between the two was broken Sunday when Earnhardt lost his life in an accident on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
"I was there with A.J.," Salazar said. "I flew back with him, and obviously we were really sad."
Like 49-year-old Earnhardt was in NASCAR, Salazar is one of the elder statesmen in Indy Racing. Salazar is 45 and is nearing the end of his career, but he knows, like Earnhardt did, that racing can prematurely end a racer’s life.
True to a racer’s spirit, however, he won’t let that slow him down.
"It's what I do, and I have to keep doing it," Salazar said. "I'll drive until I'm uncompetitive."
Friday morning, just six days after witnessing the end of a legendary career, Salazar strapped himself into the No. 14 at the IRNLS open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Before testing, Salazar said he’d have to block out those visions as he gets behind the wheel of a race car for the first time since October.
"You climb into the car, forget about it, and go for it," he explained.
Earnhardt would have liked that attitude.