I don’t remember the first NASCAR diecast I got, but the throwbacks to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ACDelco and Budweiser paint schemes from early in his career are, in theory, the last.
After all, my display case — 44 cars in the case itself, plus the Earnhardts’ Rolex 24 and a smaller version of Dale Earnhardt’s Wheaties car — is now full. It would have been full sooner, but a box of cars disappeared during a move, and not all the cars were replaced.
Sure, they don’t have to be the last ones. I could buy a larger case, move some cars to a different part of my sports room or pack them away, but it’s not just about a lack of space.
There aren’t many interesting stories behind how I got my cars.
I may have picked up one or two walking the private tents at Dover International Speedway, scored a good deal on a couple Dale Jr. cars in a store tucked in the back corner of Sangertown Square Mall in Utica, New York, and found Kevin Harvick cars on clearance at Richard Childress Racing, but mostly I told my mother the ones I wanted, and she got them for my birthday or Christmas.
My wanting a car usually didn’t have to do with results, either. I would have wanted Dale Sr.’s Peter Max car or Dale Jr.’s All-Star Game car because they looked cool, although the All-Star car obviously has a bit more meaning because it was from the 2001 Pepsi 400 that Dale Jr. won in the first race back in Daytona after his father’s death.
The white Harvick 29 also takes me back to 2001, in Atlanta, when a 25-year-old kid running his third career Cup race after the unthinkable happened beat Jeff Gordon at the line.
Other than one Robby Gordon and one Randy LaJoie (my LaJoie 74 car was one of those that didn’t make the move), all of my cars are either one of the Earnhardts or Harvick.
So, with Earnhardt Jr. retired, my wife’s question from the retirement announcement — “So what is your mother going to buy you for Christmas now?” — is still relevant.
And even if I don’t get any more cars, it’s still a proxy for the question “What driver will you root for when Dale Jr. is gone?”
And I still don’t completely know the answer.
Of course, Harvick is at the top of the list, although I’m still not quite used to him in a Ford yet. I’m getting closer, though.
But is there another driver — Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, someone else? — who’s going to grab my attention the way the Earnhardts or Harvick did?
We’ll see. Maybe I’ll have to clear space for one of their cars.
Regardless of when, or if, I buy another car for my collection, Lionel really needs to do something about its packaging.
To extricate my newest cars, my wife and I had to use three screwdrivers, two knives and a quarter-stick of dynamite.
Of course, that last one isn’t true … it takes something a lot stronger than a quarter-stick of dynamite.
Seriously, the tab you can’t move attached to the screw you can’t reach encased in foam you have to destroy to budge needs to go.
And I thought they realized that a couple years ago.
But apparently not, given that my latest query has not been answered.