The ghost of Harley J. Earl
What are the best-known sports trophies? Even casual fans know about the prizes for the Super Bowl, the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs and the top player in college football and can identify the people those awards are named after (Vince Lombardi, Lord Stanley and John Heisman).
But what about the Daytona 500? Its trophy is named after Harley J. Earl.
Who was Earl? Do NASCAR's drivers know anything about him? "Not a thing," said J.J. Yeley. "No. Who is he?" said Reed Sorenson.
"Actually, I've never even heard the name, to be honest with you," said Boris Said.
Yeley, Sorenson and Said have never won the 500, never hoisted its trophy in triumph, so it's probably not fair to ask them. Let's turn to someone who has done those things - three times.
Dale Jarrett, do you know who Harley Earl was? "Not exactly, no. I know that I should know more about the history of it. I know it's an extremely nice trophy."
None of these responses come as a surprise to Richard Earl, Harley's grandson. The 48-year-old West Palm Beach resident is determined to put his late grandfather's prize on a figurative mantel alongside the most-recognized prizes in sports.
Richard Earl believes Daytona's annual Speed Weeks, which culminate in Sunday's 50th running of the Daytona 500, should be a perfect platform for a Harley Earl renaissance. He had hoped to do much to educate the public about his grandfather's legacy, but his plans haven't materialized. He's disillusioned, not sure he'll even accept Daytona International Speedway's invitation to attend the race.
"When you look at all their promotion for the upcoming race, there's very little mention of Harley," Richard Earl said. "This guy did a lot.
"His name's on this trophy for a reason. He's a real icon."
Harley Earl was an automotive pioneer, the father of car design. He has been called the "Da Vinci of Detroit." When he began in the 1920s American cars were basically boxes on wheels. By the time he retired in 1958, he and his designers had created many "concept cars" that looked more like spacecraft. More at Palm Beach Post