Those have ceased to be freak accidents, guys. They've become a pattern.
You NASCAR drivers are dying at a cataclysmic pace unseen since the terrible 1950s and '60s when Formula One and Indy car racing were the deadliest sports on earth.
Now it's you, NASCAR. You are the deadliest game on the planet.
Formula One and Indy cars are moving forward wonderfully -- no one died in them last year.
Four in nine months, of almost the same preventable injuries.
And so you stand alone under the scrutiny of civilization.
Earnhardt put you there.
He is your Ayrton Senna.
You remember Senna.
He was the other guy who simply could not die in a race car. He was just too good at it -- like Earnhardt.
And after Senna died, in 1994, I sat in the paddock in Monaco one Grand Prix morning with Bernie Ecclestone, czar of Formula One, and the ruthless little Englishman was as somber as I've ever seen him. The judgment of civilization was raining down on him.
"We thought we walked on water," he said. "And now someone's drowned."
And then he raised his weary head and said to me, with enormous resolve, "The one message we must give out to the world is that we are not people who don't care." And no one has died in Grand Prix racing since Senna. Formula One saw to that, went into a techno-medical blitzkrieg against death, and won.
That must be your message now, NASCAR.
But you do not see that yet. You remain an anachronism, locked in a simpler past, rife with rugged individualism as a globally interdependent world spins 'round and 'round you.
You are bootstraps Americans, proud of that -- you care little for book-learnin', science, engineers, formulas, physicians. Give you a socket wrench and you can conquer the world, make the cars go fast, make them slow, make them do your will, make them safe (you surely thought).
And Lord knows Earnhardt was the quintessence of you all.
But he is dead now. Don't you see? Dead.
And so is your shade-tree engineering, your seat-of-the-pants science.