Earnhardt The Man

What Elvis was to rock and roll, Dale Earnhardt was to stock car racing.

Love him or hate him, Earnhardt was the face of NASCAR.

But he was also a father, husband and friend - roles the new documentary "Dale" paints perfectly for viewers.

The movie incorporates many never before seen clips of Earnhardt at work and at play. Produced by NASCAR Images in conjunction with Country Music Television (CMT), the film will follow the NEXTEL Cup circuit this year and open in theaters in conjunction with race weekends.

The film will also air on CMT later this fall and be available on DVD.

Teresa Earnhardt had a part in the production, the first biographical project authorized by Earnhardt's widow since his death at Daytona in 2001. That involvement no doubt opened the vault of videos, photos and film used in the movie.

Narrated by Paul Newman, "Dale" uses the 1998 Daytona 500 as its thread, telling the story of Earnhardt's rise from short track stock car driver to NASCAR, wrapping around his dramatic and emotional Daytona victory.

What struck me most about the film wasn't the incredible feats of Earnhardt the racer. If you've followed the sport for any length of time, you know about the victories, the championships and "The Intimidator" legend.

But it's the Earnhardt away from the track that resonates, the simple guy who was as much at home with a fishing rod in his hand or driving a bulldozer as he was behind-the-wheel of a racecar.

Earnhardt's loyalty and friendship with car owner Richard Childress, his devotion to family, his interaction with fans and the media all give viewers a rare look at a personal side of this racing icon.

The movie doesn't gloss over the controversies and criticisms Earnhardt endured during his life, presenting a fair account of the probably the most popular personality in NASCAR.

Maybe the most poignant scenes in the film involve Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who sits slouched on a couch dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, sharing memories of his father along with his sister Kelley.

These scenes are punctuated with video of a young Junior, playing with his father on boats, waterskies and standing nearby at the track.

As you watch today's superstar talk about yesterday's, you're reminded that above everything else this is a father and son.

That is a relationship we can all relate to.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2007

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