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Tuesday, February 19

Fans seeking closure gather at vigil
Associated Press

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Loaded with newspapers and tapes she collected since Dale Earnhardt's death, Pat Guessford drove nearly five hours to pay tribute to the NASCAR great.

"We keep looking for things that will be closure, but I keep looking for that No. 3 car to come around the corner," said Guessford, who lit a candle with her mother and son. "I'm just looking for something to get over the emotional part of it, and have it be a good memory."

Earnhardt Candle Vigil
David Ramirez from Mooresville, N.C., holds a candle during a silent candlelight vigil hosted by Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the team's headquarters in Mooresville.

Earnhardt was killed a year ago Monday on the final lap of the Daytona 500 when his car slammed into a wall.

About 350 people attended a candlelight vigil outside Earnhardt's museum and shop Monday evening, and about 1,000 people visited the site during the day.

The fans came from as far away as Kentucky and Minnesota, and they filled 24 message boards with prayers and promises that they would never forget their favorite driver.

Andy Kochera and his son left around 1 a.m. from Maryland and drove seven hours so they could attend the vigil.

Kochera, who placed decals on his black Monte Carlo so it would look like Earnhardt's race car, said he needed closure.

"I stayed in Maryland last year, and there was something missing -- I couldn't complete my grieving," Kochera said. "Being here with everybody else, it makes you feel like a family."

Lisa Hamrick, of West Virginia, brought peace lilies and a sympathy card, just as thousands did in the days following Earnhardt's death. Even though the sun was already down, many fans wore dark sunglasses that were a trademark of the driver known as "The Intimidator."

Some fans said they still watch racing, and many cheer for Earnhardt's son, Dale Jr., but others say they have lost interest.

"Racing will never be the same for me," said Winston-Salem's Barbara Ellis, who wore an Earnhardt sweat shirt and No. 3 earrings. "I just can't bring myself to watch it. I hope someday, but it's so hard for me, because I expect that No. 3 to go around the track."

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