All Aboard The Dale Earnhardt Sr. Roller Coaster!

OK, I’ll tell you right now with no fear of being politically incorrect, don’t think you’re getting me to ride the new Dale Earnhardt Sr. roller coaster. Yes, that’s the Dale Earnhardt Senior roller coaster, which at first seems like a sick joke; something Borat would build if he owned an amusement park. “Come now, you try your luck at the Tupac Shakur shooting gallery! Five shots for a dollar!

Sorry, I’ll be busy at the Michael Vick petting zoo. Two amusement parks in Virginia and North Carolina have teamed with Dale Earnhardt Inc. to mark new roller coasters with the name and logo of the late NASCAR legend, and let us put an emphasis here on the word “late.” Considering how Earnhardt Sr. met his tragic end, is this branding of a speeding thrill conveyance really wise?


The cars, which will carry “Intimidator” and “3″ marks — after Earnhardt’s nickname and car number during his NASCAR days — will reach speeds of 90 mph. The Carowinds coaster is expected to be announced next week. Both properties are owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment, which struck the licensing deal with DEI.

“We see this as part of the reactivation of the Dale Earnhardt brand,” DEI Exec VP & GM Jeff Steiner said this morning as he drove with Earnhardt’s daughter, Taylor, to Kings Dominion for the announcement. “We’ve been working to restore the Dale Earnhardt legacy through unique things that resonate with the fanbase and this fits in with our strategy.”

Even though eight years have passed since the accident that took his life at the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt Sr. still represents big money in NASCAR, and of course his own DEI Corp. Ironic in a way, since Earnhardt had always been a polarizing figure in the sport, and preferred keeping to himself when off the track. Many hated his racing style, but he had a legion of supporters as well — when Ned Yost took over the Brewers, he changed his number from 5 to 3 in honor of Earnhardt.

NASCAR and the Earnhardt family are very protective of his legacy — they weren’t too happy with ESPN’s handling of his story in their “3: The Dale Earnhardt Story” in 2004. I venture to guess that if someone else had come up with the idea of an Intimidator roller coaster, they would have had a seizure. And one with Dale Sr.’s likeness on the side? Yes, that’s under consideration.

So stop on by Kings Dominion Amusement Park in Doswell, Virginia, or Carowinds in Charlotte next summer, and get in line for adventure. As of 2006, there have been an average of two deaths per year on amusement park rides in the U.S. If your number is up, it may as well be on ‘ol No. 3.