Ayrton Senna’s death was a massive loss not only for Formula One, but for the entire racing community. That certainly was evident during the 1994 NASCAR Winston Select 500, which was held on the same day as the Brazilian driver’s death.
By the time drivers strapped into their stock cars at Talladega Superspeedway, news of Senna’s death had spread around the world. NASCAR acted quickly to organize a pre-race tribute, and had the field take several laps around the 2.66-mile oval out of respect for the fallen racer.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. won the Winston Select 500, and even after 188 laps, the fatal crash still was on his mind. During his victory lane interview, even before he thanked his sponsors, Earnhardt extended his condolences to Senna’s family.
NASCAR and F1 are two very different categories of racing, but the drivers in each series can recognize a talented racer when they see one — whether they compete on an oval or a Grand Prix circuit.
As we’ve seen with Billy Monger’s recent Formula 4 crash, famous drivers often are quick to lend support when somebody else suffers a serious accident. The reason has less to do with their respect for that person’s talent, however, and more to do with their respect for that individual’s love of the sport.
Every time a driver gets inside their car for a race, they do so knowing full well that Senna’s fate could be their own, and that’s a risk they’re willing to take. NASCAR and Earnhardt’s tributes to Senna weren’t a publicity stunt, but rather a way of honoring the fact he died doing what he loved.