"I feel the same, and I'm working hard to be the same driver and to have the same focus," Earnhardt said, in a considerably more subdued tone than his normal bluster. "It seems that things are not as great as they were before the Talladega crash. I don't understand why we haven't won races this year. We were so dominant in years past that it's tough not to [dominate]. We'll get it right. I guarantee you."
While Earnhardt may profess to be baffled by his winlessness, other drivers think they know what the problem is. "I never was the same after I got hurt," Waltrip said of his worst crash, at Daytona in 1990. "Earnhardt got hurt, and he's never been the same. With old drivers, injuries last longer, and the memories of those injuries last a whole lot longer. When you have a bad crash, the car is never again as comfortable to you as it once was."
Said Ernie Irvan, who returned to racing after suffering massive head injuries in a 1994 crash, "There's no doubt that my accident could, and should, take something away from me, and that Earnhardt's accident could, and should, take something away from him."
Perhaps that's why a former member of Earnhardt's team stood atop a hauler at Texas Motor Speedway last April and gazed down at his old team's garage. "Above that stall," he said sadly, "they ought to paint the name ICHABOD. It's a Biblical name. It means 'Glory has departed.' "