NASCAR & Auto Racing

Dale Earnhardt’s hometown baseball team wants to ditch his Intimidator nickname

NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt’s hometown baseball team is asking fans to help replace its longtime name, “the Intimidators,” a nod to Earnhardt’s famous nickname.

The Kannapolis, North Carolina, Class A baseball franchise invited the community beginning on Wednesday to help rename the franchise as it “moves toward a new era of baseball at the City of Kannapolis’s Sports and Entertainment Venue,” according to a news release.

“Today the team launches its ‘Branded New By You’ campaign and is asking community members to suggest names to help define the team’s new identity,” according to the team’s release. “In addition to a new name, the rebrand will include a new logo and mascot. The new identity will debut after the 2019 season ends.”

That all might come as a shock to fans of the city’s hometown hero.

Dale Earnhardt Plaza graces the heart of the city’s downtown, with a 9-foot, 900-pound bronze statue of Earnhardt serving as the centerpiece attraction, according to the Visit North Carolina website.

The plaza also features a granite monument “contributed by Earnhardt fans from Vermont and New York,” according to Visit NC. The plaza, meanwhile, “is one stop along The Dale Trail, a self-guided tour featuring other locations that are significant to Earnhardt’s legacy.”

Earnhardt died in the last lap of the Daytona 500 in February 2001. His son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., recently retired from racing after being voted numerous times by fans as NASCAR’s most popular driver.

However, Andy Sandler, the Kannapolis baseball team’s new owner, said in Wednesday’s news release that “giving fans an even better game experience with a new team name, fresh logo and engaging mascot is a very important part of what is ahead for Kannapolis baseball and the city. We look forward to community participation in this exciting rebrand.”

Over 25 years, the team also was called the Phillies and the Boll Weevils.

Kannapolis baseball looks to enter a new era with a new name and a new ballpark in a new downtown Kannapolis,” team officials said in the release. “The new Kannapolis Sports and Entertainment Venue is scheduled to open in April of 2020. The team will proudly carry the city’s name in its title when it moves into the SEV.”

The team invited fans to submit nominations at through Wednesday, Feb. 13, for a new team name, including how and why the nomination “embodies Kannapolis professional baseball.”

The team will work with brand identity firm Studio Simon to select the new name, according to the release.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.