Just saying Dale Earnhardt Sr‘s name and Nascar in the same sentence produces instant recall, especially during Nascar’s 53rd Annual Daytona 500 race this week, also known as “The Great American Race“, according to the Daytona International Speedway.
But another Dale was as instantly recognizable in the State of Georgia during the late 70s and early 80s and that was Dale Singleton, who won the Daytona 200 in 1979 and 1981, along with the 1981 AMA Road Championship for motorcycle racing.
And if Dale Singleton had lived it is highly likely he would have given Dale Earnhardt, Sr. a run for his money, as Singleton was known as the fasted motorcycle racer of his time, partially due to the fact that he built his own bikes.
But how would a motorcycle racer have been a competitor against legend stock car racer Dale Earnhardt Sr.? you may ask.
While Singleton was a force to be reckoned with on the motorcycle, and garnered attention in the U.S. and Europe — where he raced as well — recent racing enthusiasts may not realize he had left motorcycle racing at the top of his game and had veered into stock car racing shortly before his fatal plane crash.
In fact, Dale Singleton had left a stock car race with fellow pal Richie Panch – the Daytona Beach, Florida stock car racer — and was a passenger in Panch’s Piper plane when they encountered a storm so bad the plane fell apart, sending them and other passengers abroad to their deaths.
Racing enthusiasts the world over lost the first Dale to racing back then, in September of 1985. They would go on to lose the second Dale — Dale Earnhardt Sr. — almost two decades later, and actually while in a race.
Dale Singleton and Dale Earnhardt Sr both exit at top of game
Like Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Singleton was fast on the tracks, attributed he said to his unique approach to racing.
“Most of my advantage at Daytona is the fact that I got to the level I’m at by doing my own thing mechanically. I know the inside of the bike’s engine like the back of my hand.”
And, indeed, he did, building his own bikes in lieu of using factory made motorcycle racing bikes.
The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame says Singleton was so knowledgeable about the mechanics of motorcycle bikes that he not only once — but twice — played “David” to the factory racing team’s “Goliath” on the track, whipping them at their own high-dollar game.
When Dale Singleton exited motorcycle racing for stock car racing instead, he did so with the same intent as racing motorcycles: to win.
Singleton’s untimely death prohibited us ever learning what he would have accommplished on the Daytona track in a stock car, but this fearless racer would have surely been pitted against another Dale eventually.
As it is, Dale Singleton and Dale Earnhardt Sr. both exited the professional arena of motor sports at the height of their respective careers, and the latter will be officially remembered on the 10th anniversary of his death during the 53rd Annual Daytona 500 race this weekend.
Dale Singleton, on the other hand, didn’t live to be in the “Great American Race” in Daytona, but I’m confident his showing would have been just as spectacular if he had. For more about the family this Dale left behind read “NASCAR: Two deaths, two anniversaries – Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Dale Singleton.”
References: Daytona International Speedway, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Website and Singleton Family