The peak of NASCAR was undoubtedly the early 2000s, and it’s a sad shame to say that the sport has been on a huge downhill slope since then. It was a time where not only did newcomer fans have the chance to latch onto relatively young first time drivers like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, a lot of old-timer fans still had some solid favorites like Bill Elliot and Mark Martin as regulars on raceday two decades after their first rookie runs. But even after the sport ended its first century in operation, one name still held a massive presence amongst the fandom as he had for roughly 20 years at that point: Dale Earnhardt, lovingly known as “The Intimidator.”
However, even though Dale had such a tight grip on the sport as a whole, 2001 wasn’t quite starting out as all smooth sailing for the famous mustache-laden road warrior. Many people thought that he was getting up in the years, and talks of retirement were fairly strong after some lackluster 1999 and 2000 seasons. Many people thought that now that he had seven championships under his belt and had won every race that was worth something, there was no reason for Dale to push himself anymore.
But Dale had no plans to lay down the gauntlet yet. He had just finished buttering up his son, Dale Jr, into entering the Winston Cup series, and his own personal team, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, was finally gaining ground with a fairly solid roster of drivers. Couple all that with a solid finish driving a Corvette C5-R at the 24 hours of Daytona in early 2001, and retirement rumors quickly became hushed. As the slick looking 2001 Monte Carlo, embellished in that famous black #3 paint scheme, finally rolled out at the beginning of the season, people instead began asking about a possible eighth championship, and what could be next for such a heralded driver.
But of course, that never happened. Dale unfortunately died in the final laps of the Daytona 500 that year when this Monte Carlo you see before you slammed into the wall head on. There would be no eighth championship. There would be no future for Dale. It was over and done.
A few weeks ago I had an epiphany. I had been collecting 1/18 roadgoing cars for just over a year now, but I had a sudden spark of interest after seeing a few race cars during car week that I needed a race car as well. But, I wanted it to be a special one, one from one of my favorite drivers of all time. It hit me when I was watching a NASCAR video by the YouTuber S1apSh0es that it needed to be a Dale Earnhardt car.
But why this one? Why a model of the car that took his life? Plain and simply, I don’t think there’s a more famous...or rather infamous...car that Dale ever drove. Everyone knows this car because of that fateful event that February day. But if you want a less morbid reason, it’s simply because the 2001 Monte Carlo stock car is one of my favorites, and this scheme looks amazing on it.
As far as I can tell, this is a limited special edition Action diecast with pearl-effect paint. It’s a solid hunk of metal in 1/18 scale (and by solid, I mean solid, this thing is absolutely heavy) with a lot of basic stock car detailing. The hood and trunk opens revealing a nice engine bay and fuel tank access as well.
But the real reason I went for this Action model over all of the other, cheaper versions from ERTL and others are the sheer detailing of the decals and other advertisements. Just take a look for yourself.
ERTL skimps out a lot on their decal coverage, so I’m glad Action makes sure to go all out with these. It just adds to the overall realism in my opinion, and makes this car all the more special.
This car is a solemn reminder of how good NASCAR once was, and also how its changed so severely since then. A lot of former fans pinpoint Dale’s death as the turning point from which NASCAR started it’s nose dive into obscurity, but I feel like it could be debated. I still wouldn’t doubt that it was certainly the beginning of the climax of the sport’s popularity. There’s no possible way that another driver like Dale could ever step foot into a car like this again, so at least we have this fantastic model to remember the golden days with. #RHPD.