DAYTONA BEACH -- It was Earnhardt, guys. It really was. Not some rookie or also-ran. Earnhardt. Your leader.

Are you clear on that now? Are there any more questions?

Apparently there are.

Half of you, at best, will be wearing the life-saving HANS device Sunday at Rockingham, N.C.

And so I've got to ask:

Who among you is next, guys?

There is no if.

There is only who and where and when.

Everywhere Earnhardt went, you all followed.

If he pulled out of the drafting line at Talladega, you all fell in behind him and made a new drafting line.

If he didn't like Geoffrey Bodine, you didn't like Geoffrey Bodine.

If he didn't like the HANS device, you didn't like it, either.

If he thought safety science was for sissies, you thought safety science was for sissies.

There is no place else to follow him now, guys.

Except the grave.

Was Sunday really just his time? Meant to be? Written in the book, as you guys say?

Would Sunday have been his time had he been wearing a HANS? Or May 12 Adam Petty's? Or July 7 Kenny Irwin's? Or Oct. 14 Tony Roper's?

That's a lot of meant-to-be, guys.

Four drivers dead of violent head movement -- so preventable with the HANS -- in barely nine months?