Dale's perfect place: Earnhardt's burial site remains a secret From HALLOWED GROUND, A Charlotte Observer series By DAVID POOLE The Charlotte Observer It's at the bottom of a hill, near the edge of a pond where he liked to go fishing. He never had time to do enough fishing. In the morning, light reflects off the water as the sun burns off the dew. In the evening, there's shade from a tree he loved to sit against and listen to the rare sounds of silence in a life that was hammer-down, running wide open. It was Dale Earnhardt's own private place, his refuge. It is a perfect place to rest. Perhaps it's not like that at all. Only the people who were closest to the seven-time Winston Cup racing champion know the location of his final resting place. If you knew him well enough to be taken there, nobody has to tell you not to talk about what you saw. That is as it should be. In life, Earnhardt belonged to NASCAR and its fans. He gave the sport so many great moments, so many memorable performances. He put the little town of Kannapolis on the world's sporting map. Building on a family name his father, Ralph, had worked into the red-clay foundation of stock-car racing, Earnhardt toiled with the Pettys and the Allisons and the Frances to carry his sport to a broader national audience. And those fans drank it up like nectar. Earnhardt was Everyman - and Superman. Sometimes he bullied his way to victory, other times he slipped through a pack of traffic like a sculptor carving victory out of asphalt. He amassed a personal fortune but never once seemed to lose touch with the common man. He could be a demanding boss, but when Dale Earnhardt Jr. got his first career Winston Cup victory at Texas, and then won The Winston for Dale Earnhardt Inc., he was just a proud Daddy. When he died that February day at Daytona in 2001, it just didn't seem right. He was supposed to be around forever. He'd be there when Dale Jr. won the championship, reminding his son not to get big-headed until he won six more. He'd be around swapping stories with all the guys he raced, arguing for hours about who was really better, then slapping each other on the back and agreeing they were all better than this new bunch of kids everybody's making such a big deal about. In many ways, he is still around. You can't go to Daytona without thinking about Earnhardt finally winning the 500 in 1998. You can't go to Talladega without remembering his last win in 2000, where he came from 18th to first in five unbelievable laps. You can't go to Lowe's Motor Speedway without remembering the "pass in the grass" from The Winston in 1987. Many of his fans would like to go where he rests to simply pay their respects. They want to say goodbye. But the place where Earnhardt lies shouldn't be on any bus tour. Earnhardt's work is done. He's given NASCAR fans a lifetime worth of memories. And that's enough. Paint your own picture of the place, in your mind. And let him rest.