Happy Birthday to one of the greatest the sport has ever seen.

“The Intimidator”, “The Man in Black”, “Ironhead” and simply, Dale,  Dale Earnhardt was known by many names but all conjured up one man.

It’s been a baker’s dozen of years since we lost Earnhardt.

NASCAR reminds us weekly that “Everything has changed. Nothing has changed.”

That rings true in all aspects of the sport… and the world.

Earnhardt’s NASCAR is no longer around. Earnhardt’s America has changed drastically, too.

The sport has “evolved”, the cars have become bland, and the drivers have less distinctive personality but are more ‘marketable’.

On the flipside, cars are safer than ever before, fans have more access to information than they ever did, and NASCAR is truly a national sport.

What could be a more fitting birthday gift for Earnhardt than that?

How about his son excelling in his career?

Dale Earnhardt Jr’s success as an ambassador for NASCAR, a competitive driver, and a marketing machine means Earnhardt’s work during his career paid off in spades.

What parent doesn’t want their offspring to do better than they?

Earnhardt Jr. will never match or beat his father’s seven Cup championships, but he’s experienced success on a different scale in NASCAR.

In fact, Earnhardt would probably be delighted to see so many of his offspring involved in racing. From Kerry, Kelley, Dale Jr., and Taylor Nicole to Bobby Dale, Jeffrey, and Karsyn Elledge, the Earnhardt clan is doing much to continue the racing legacy of the family.

Earnhardt Jr., however, along with his sister Kelley, has taken the lead as not only the number one face of the Earnhardt Family, but also the sport itself.

This year Earnhardt Jr. started his season by doing something his father never did, winning his second Daytona 500.

He’s had an incredible start to the season minus terrible luck at Texas Motor Speedway, and is a points contender again.

In addition, JR Motorsports, a Hendrick-supported organization, is dominating an exciting Nationwide season in the early stages. Finding talent, from Brad Keselowski to Chase Elliott, has made JR Motorsports a winning stable.

The Earnhardt name is synonymous with racing and winning.

Earnhardt’s legacy is alive and well in the 21st Century and continues to thrive.

Everything is different. Nothing is different.

Losing a person so well loved is always difficult.

Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are the hardest to weather.

In NASCAR, every venue, every race, Earnhardt made history, is remembered, and left his mark.

As we remember Earnhardt on his birthday today, we salute the man that was, the driver who enthralled us and “rattled our cages”, and the family man who is still sorely missed.

But, we continue to celebrate the extraordinary gift of having Earnhardt, even for the time we did. For the excitement he brought to the sport, the gifts to his fans that still resonate, and the progeny he left behind to carry on the Earnhardt name and tradition.

The greatest gift for Earnhardt’s birthday this year is not what we can give him, but what he left for us.