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Wasn't Earnhardt rough around the edges, too?

Most everybody agreed the banners directing visitors to Kannapolis' “Dale Trail” needed to be replaced. Time and weather had made them rough around the edges, not unlike the man they honored: race car driver Dale Earnhardt, a Kannapolis native who died in a crash at Daytona in 2001.

Yet the way they came down is downright disrespectful. Billionaire Kannapolis benefactor David Murdock's development company, Castle & Cooke, expressed a desire to see them removed before Mr. Murdock and a special, unidentified guest (investor) arrived in town.

“There are many (including everybody at Castle & Cooke and some others I have talked to) that do not want to see anything ‘Dale related' to go back up,” City Manager Mike Legg told City Council in an e-mail.

You mean the legacy of a hard-working, hard-driving, call-it-as-you-see-it stock car driver is no longer suitable for Kannapolis? Sure, it's being transformed by Mr. Murdock's billions from a tumbleweed textile town to a science research campus, but not want to advertise Dale? That's crazy.

You don't build a bright new future by pretending to be something you're not – or acting as if the past never happened.

Mr. Murdock's dynamite and bulldozers have obliterated almost every scrap of the era in which Kannapolis served as proud loom to the world. He is building the $1.5 billion North Carolina Research Campus in the same place the Cannon family a century ago built and owned the world's largest textile factory – and the town.

That welcome investment – along with millions in public support in tax dollars and costly infrastructure – holds enormous promise. The town was stripped of its livelihood when the factory closed in 2002. More than 3,000 jobs were lost overnight.

Yet why pretend the mill days never happened? And, now, why remove a cool connection with a hot racing legend? There's a lot to value in Kannapolis' past – especially the part about being Dale Earnhardt's hometown.

You'd think a benefactor so intent on reviving the town would be the first to wave that banner.

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