Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt late 1990s
Born April 29, 1951(1951-04-29)
Kannapolis, North Carolina
Died February 18, 2001(2001-02-18) (aged 49)
Daytona Beach, Florida [1]
Cause of death Basilar skull fracture from crash in Turn 4 on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Achievements Winston Cup Series Champion (1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994)
1998 Daytona 500 Champion
Winston All-Star Race Winner (III, VI, IX)
IROC Champion (1990, 1995, 1999, 2000)
Awards NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year (1979)
Named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers
NASCAR Most Popular Driver (2001)
2002 Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee
2006 International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee
2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career
677 races run over 27 years
Best finish 1: (1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994)
First race 1975 World 600 (Charlotte)
Last race 2001 Daytona 500 (Daytona)
First win 1979 Southeastern 500 (Bristol)
Last win 2000 Winston 500 (Talladega)
Wins Top tens Poles
76 428 22

Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Sr. (April 29, 1951 – February 18, 2001[1]) was an American race car driver, best known for his involvement in stock car racing for NASCAR. The only child of Ralph Earnhardt, Earnhardt began his career in 1975 when he drove in the 1975 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of the Winston Cup Series (later the Sprint Cup Series).

During the course of his career, Earnhardt won a total of 76 races (including one Daytona 500 victory in 1998). Dale earned seven championships, which is tied for the most all time with Richard Petty. His aggressive driving style led to controversy and earned him the nickname "The Intimidator".

While driving in the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt died of basilar skull fracture in a last-lap crash at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2001.[2][3] He has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Contents

Early life and personal life

Earnhardt was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, on April 29, 1951, to Martha Coleman and Ralph Earnhardt, who was then one of the best short-track drivers in North Carolina. Ralph won his one and only NASCAR Sportsman Championship in 1956 at Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina. Although Ralph did not want his son to follow in his footsteps, Earnhardt would not be persuaded to give up his dream of racing, dropping out of school to race. Ralph was a hard teacher for Earnhardt, and after Ralph died of a heart attack at his home in 1973, it took many years before Earnhardt felt as though he had finally "proven" himself to his father. Earnhardt had four siblings, Danny, Randy,Cathy, and Kaye.

When Earnhardt was 17, he married his first wife, Latane Brown, in 1968. Brown gave birth to Earnhardt's first son, Kerry Dale, in 1969. They were subsequently divorced in 1970. In 1971, Earnhardt married his second wife, Brenda Gee (the daughter of NASCAR car builder Robert Gee), who gave birth to a daughter, Kelley King, in 1972, and a son, Ralph Dale Jr., in 1974. Not long after his second son was born Dale and Brenda divorced. Dale then married his last wife, Teresa Houston in 1982, who gave birth to their daughter Taylor Nicole in 1988.

NASCAR career

Early Winston Cup career

Earnhardt began his professional career at the Winston Cup in 1975, making his debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina in the longest race on the Cup circuit, the World 600. Earnhardt drove an Ed Negre Dodge Charger(#8) and finished 22nd in the race, one place ahead of his future car owner, Richard Childress. Earnhardt competed in 8 more races until 1979, when he joined car owner Rod Osterlund Racing, in a season that included a rookie class of future stars – Earnhardt, Harry Gant and Terry Labonte.

In his rookie season, Earnhardt won one race at Bristol, captured four poles, had 11 Top 5 finishes, 17 Top 10 finishes, and finished 7th in the points standings, in spite of missing four races because of a broken collarbone, winning Rookie of the Year honors.

In his sophomore season, Earnhardt, now with 20-year old Doug Richert as his crew chief, began the season winning the Busch Clash. With wins at Atlanta, Bristol, Nashville, Martinsville, and Charlotte, Earnhardt won his first Winston Cup championship. To this day, Earnhardt is the only driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to follow a Rookie of the Year title with a NASCAR Winston Cup Championship the next season. He was the third driver in NASCAR history to win both the Rookie of the Year and Cup Series championship in his career, joining David Pearson and Richard Petty. Only 5 drivers have joined this exclusive club since - Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Matt Kenseth.

1983 racecar

In 1981, after Osterlund sold his team to J.D. Stacy, Earnhardt left for Richard Childress Racing, and finished the season 7th in the points standings but winless. The following year, at Childress' suggestion, Earnhardt joined car owner Bud Moore for the 1982 and 1983 seasons driving the #15 Wrangler Jeans Ford Thunderbird (Earnhardt's only full-time Ford ride in his career). During the 1982 season, Earnhardt struggled. Although he won at Darlington, he failed to finish 15 races, and completed the season 12th in points, the worst of his career. He also suffered a broken knee cap at Pocono Raceway when he flipped after contact with Tim Richmond. In 1983, Earnhardt rebounded and won his first of 12 Twin 125 Daytona 500 qualifying races. Earnhardt won at Nashville and at Talladega, finishing eighth in the points standings.

Return to Richard Childress Racing

After the 1983 season, Earnhardt returned to Richard Childress Racing, replacing Ricky Rudd in the #3. Rudd went to Bud Moore's #15, replacing Earnhardt. Wrangler sponsored both drivers at their respective teams. During the 1984 and 1985 seasons, Earnhardt visited victory lane six times, at Talladega, Atlanta, Richmond, Bristol (twice), and Martinsville, where he finished fourth and eighth in the season standings, respectively.

The 1986 season saw Earnhardt win his second career Winston Cup Championship and the first owner's championship for RCR. He won five races and had ten Top 5 and sixteen Top 10 finishes. Earnhardt successfully defended his championship the following year, visiting victory lane eleven times and winning the championship by 489 points over Bill Elliott. In the process, Earnhardt set a NASCAR modern era record of four consecutive wins and won five of the first seven races. In the 1987 season, Earnhardt earned his nickname "The Intimidator" after spinning out Elliott in the final segment of "The Winston", a non-points event now known as the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. During this race, Earnhardt was briefly forced into the infield grass, but kept control of his car and returned to the track without giving up his lead — a maneuver now referred to as the "Pass in the Grass" even though Earnhardt actually didn't pass and couldn't have passed anyone for position as he was in the lead at the time.

Earnhardt.jpg

The 1988 season saw Earnhardt racing with a new sponsor, GM Goodwrench, which replaced Wrangler Jeans. During this season Earnhardt garnered a second nickname, "The Man in Black", owing to the black paint scheme in which the #3 car was painted. He was also called "Darth Vader" more than once because of the black uniform and car, adding to his notoriety as a driver who would wreck anyone he could not pass. He won three times in 1988, finishing third in the points standings behind Bill Elliott and Rusty Wallace. The following year, Earnhardt won five times, but a late spin out at North Wilkesboro arguably cost him the 1989 championship, as Rusty Wallace edged out Earnhardt for the championship.

1990s

As part of a Winston No Bull 5 fan contest, Earnhardt drives a Bomb Lift Truck and attempts to load an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) missile as he competes in a load crew competition at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, September 2000. Coincidentally, this position on a load crew is known unofficially as a "Jammer Driver" or more officially as a Number 3 man.

The 1990 season started for Earnhardt with victories in the Busch Clash and his heat of the Gatorade Twin 125s. Near the end of the Daytona 500, he had a four-second lead when the final caution flag came out with a handful of laps to go. When the green flag waved, Earnhardt was leading Derrike Cope. On the final lap, Earnhardt ran over a piece of metal in the final turn, cutting a tire. Cope, in an upset, won the race while Earnhardt finished fifth. The #3 Goodwrench Chevy team took the flat tire that cost them the win and hung it on the shop wall as a reminder of how close they'd come to winning the Daytona 500. Earnhardt went on to win nine races this season and won his fourth Winston Cup title, beating Mark Martin by 26 points. Earnhardt also became the first repeat winner of the annual all-star race, The Winston.

The 1991 season saw Earnhardt win his fifth Winston Cup championship. He scored just four wins, but won the championship by 195 points over Ricky Rudd. One of his wins that year came at North Wilkesboro, in a race where Harry Gant had a chance to set a single-season record by winning his fifth consecutive race, breaking a record held by Earnhardt. Late in the race Gant lost his brakes, which gave Earnhardt the chance he needed to make the pass for the win and maintain his record.

Earnhardt's only win in 1992 came at Charlotte, in the Coca-Cola 600, ending a 13-race win streak by Ford teams. Earnhardt finished a career-low 12th in the points for the second time in his career, and the only time he had finished that low since joining RCR. Earnhardt still made the trip to the annual Awards Banquet with Rusty Wallace but did not have the best seat in the house. Wallace states he and Earnhardt had to sit on the backs of their chairs to see and Earnhardt said "This sucks, I could have gone hunting".[4] At the end of the year, longtime crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine left to become a driver. Andy Petree took over as crew chief.

Hiring Petree turned out to be beneficial, as the #3 GM Goodwrench Chevy returned to the front in 1993. Earnhardt once again came close to a win at the Daytona 500, and dominated Speedweeks before finishing second to Dale Jarrett on a last-lap pass. Earnhardt scored six wins en route to his sixth Winston Cup title, including wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and The Winston at Charlotte, and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Earnhardt beat Rusty Wallace for the championship by 80 points.

Dale's 1994 racecar

In 1994, Earnhardt achieved a feat that he himself had believed to be impossible – he scored his seventh Winston Cup championship, tying the legendary Richard Petty. Earnhardt was very consistent, scoring four wins, and after Ernie Irvan was sidelined due to a near-deadly crash at Michigan (the two were neck-and-neck at the top of the points up until the crash), won title by over 400 points over Mark Martin. Earnhardt sealed the deal at Rockingham by winning the race over Rick Mast. Although Earnhardt continued to dominate in the seasons ahead, this would be his final NASCAR championship.

Earnhardt started off the 1995 season by finishing second in the Daytona 500 to Sterling Marlin. He won 5 races in 1995, including his first road course victory at Sears Point. He also won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a win he called the biggest of his career. But in the end, Earnhardt lost the championship to Jeff Gordon by just 34 points.

Earnhardt began 1996 with a repeat of 1993 – he dominated Speedweeks only to finish second in the Daytona 500 to Dale Jarrett for a second time. Earnhardt won early in the year, scoring consecutive victories at Rockingham and Atlanta. In late July in the DieHard 500 at Talladega, he was in the points lead and looking for his eighth title despite the departure of crew chief Andy Petree. Late in the race, Ernie Irvan lost control of his #28 Havoline Ford Thunderbird, igniting a frightening crash that saw Earnhardt's #3 Chevrolet hit the tri-oval wall nearly head-on at almost 200 miles per hour. After hitting the wall, Earnhardt's car flipped and slid across the track, in front of race-traffic. His car was hit in the roof and windshield, and the accident led NASCAR to mandate the "Earnhardt Bar", a metal brace located in the center of the windshield that reinforces the roof in case of a similar crash.

Rain-delays had canceled the live telecast of the race and most fans first learned of the accident during the night's sports newscasts. Video of the crash showed what appeared to be a fatal incident, but once medical workers arrived at the car, Earnhardt climbed out and waved to the crowd, refusing to be loaded onto a stretcher despite a broken collarbone, sternum, and shoulder blade. Many thought the incident would end his season early, but Earnhardt refused to give up. The next week at Indianapolis, he started the race but exited the car on the first pit stop, allowing Mike Skinner to take the wheel. When asked, Earnhardt said that vacating the #3 car was the hardest thing he'd ever done. The following weekend at Watkins Glen, he drove the #3 Goodwrench Chevrolet to the fastest time in qualifying, earning the "True Grit" pole. T-shirts emblazoned with Earnhardt's face were quickly printed up, brandishing the caption, "It Hurt So Good." Earnhardt led most of the race and looked to have victory in hand, but fatigue finally took its toll and Earnhardt ended up 6th, behind race winner Geoff Bodine. Earnhardt did not win again in 1996, but still finished 4th in the standings behind Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett. David Smith departed as crew chief of the #3 team and RCR at the end of the year for personal reasons, and was replaced by Larry McReynolds.

In 1997, Earnhardt went winless for only the second time in his career. The only (non-points) win came during Speedweeks at Daytona in the Twin 125-mile qualifying race, his record 8th straight win in the event. Once again in the hunt for the Daytona 500 with 10 laps to go, Earnhardt was taken out of contention by a late crash which sent his car upside down on the backstretch. Earnhardt hit the low point of his year when he blacked out early in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington in September, causing him to hit the wall. Afterward, he was disoriented and it took several laps before he could find his pit stall. When asked, Earnhardt complained of double vision which made it difficult to pit. Mike Dillon (Richard Childress's son-in-law) was brought in to relieve Earnhardt for the remainder of the race. Earnhardt was evaluated at a local hospital and cleared to race the very next week, but the cause of the blackout and double vision was never determined. Despite no wins, the RCR team finished the season 5th in the final standings.

1998 saw Earnhardt win the Daytona 500 after not winning in the previous 19 attempts. Earnhardt began the season by winning his Twin 125-mile qualifier race for the ninth straight year. On race day, Earnhardt showed himself to be a contender early. Halfway through the race, however, it seemed that Jeff Gordon had the upper hand. But by lap 138, Earnhardt had taken the lead, and thanks to a push by teammate Mike Skinner, he was able to maintain it. Earnhardt made it to the to the caution checkered flag before Bobby Labonte. Afterwards, there was a large show of respect for Earnhardt, in which every crew member of every team lined pit road to shake his hand as he made his way to victory lane. Earnhardt then drove his #3 into the infield grass, starting a trend of post-race celebrations. He spun the car twice, throwing grass and leaving tire tracks in the shape of a #3 in the grass. Earnhardt then spoke about the victory, saying "I have had a lot of great fans and people behind me all through the years and I just can't thank them enough. The Daytona 500 is ours. We won it! We won it! We won it!" Unfortunately, the rest of the season did not go as well, and The Great American Race was his only victory that year. He slipped to 12th in the standings halfway through the season, and Richard Childress decided to make a crew chief change, taking Mike Skinner's crew chief Kevin Hamlin and putting him with Earnhardt while giving Skinner Larry McReynolds. Earnhardt was able to climb back to 8th in the final standings.

Before the 1999 season, fans began discussing Earnhardt's age and speculating that with his son, Dale Jr. getting into racing, Earnhardt might be contemplating retirement. Earnhardt swept both races for the year at Talladega, leading most observers to conclude that Earnhardt's talent had become limited to the restrictor plate tracks, which require a unique skill set and an exceptionally powerful car to win. But halfway through the year, Earnhardt began to show some of the old spark. In the August race at Michigan International Speedway, Earnhardt led laps late in the race and nearly pulled off his first win on a non-restrictor plate track since 1996.

One week later, he provided the sport with one of its most controversial moments.

At the August Bristol race, Earnhardt found himself in contention to win his first short track race since Martinsville in 1995. When a caution came out with 15 laps to go, leader Terry Labonte got hit from behind by the lapped car of Darrell Waltrip. His spin put Earnhardt in the lead with 5 cars between him and Labonte with 5 laps to go. Labonte had four fresh tires and Earnhardt was driving on old tires, which made Earnhardt's car considerably slower. Labonte caught Earnhardt and passed him coming to the white flag, but Earnhardt drove hard into turn two, bumping Labonte and spinning him around. Dale went on to collect the win while spectators booed and made obscene gestures. "I didn't mean to turn him around, I just wanted to rattle his cage", Earnhardt said of the incident. Earnhardt finished 7th in the standings that year, and looked like a contender again.

In the 2000 season, Earnhardt had a resurgence, which some attributed to neck surgery he underwent to correct a lingering injury from his 1996 Talladega crash. He scored what many considered the 2 most exciting wins of the year – winning by .006 seconds over Bobby Labonte at Atlanta, then gaining seventeen positions in the final four laps to win at Talladega, claiming his only No Bull million dollar bonus. Earnhardt also enjoyed strong second-place runs at Richmond and Martinsville, tracks where he'd struggled through the late '90s. On the strength of these performances, Earnhardt took the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo to 2nd in the standings. However, poor performances at the road course of Watkins Glen, where he wrecked coming out of the chicane, a wreck with Chad Little while leading the spring race at Bristol, and mid-pack runs at intermediate tracks like Charlotte and Dover in a season dominated by the Ford Taurus in those tracks of Roush, Yates, and Penske, coupled with the extremely consistent Joe Gibb's #18 team with Bobby Labonte, denied Earnhardt the coveted eighth championship title.

Death

In the weeks before the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt elected not to attend the annual fan and media preview event, drawing vocal criticism from fellow driver Jimmy Spencer. On February 3 and 4, 2001, the first time in his career, Earnhardt participated in the Rolex 24 endurance race at Daytona, the event which kicks off Speedweeks at the track. His team, which also featured drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Andy Pilgrim, and Kelly Collins, finished 4th overall and 2nd in class.[5]

Ultimately, however, 2001 Speedweeks would be the first in many years that Earnhardt failed to win at least one race. In the first NASCAR-sanctioned event of Speedweeks, the Budweiser Shootout, Earnhardt finished second to Tony Stewart. Earnhardt was also denied victory in the Gatorade Twin 125 qualifying race in which he participated. Earnhardt had won every Twin 125 event he competed in during the 1990s, and was poised to win again in 2001 when Sterling Marlin pulled off a slingshot pass going down the backstretch, taking the victory away from Earnhardt.

On the morning of the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt appeared confident and relaxed. When the race started, Earnhardt showed early promise, leading the race and maintaining a front-running position for most of the event.

A multi-car wreck late in the race eliminated several cars in spectacular fashion. Tony Stewart, who had beaten Earnhardt in the Budweiser Shootout, found his car tumbling wildly down the backstretch. The race was red flagged to facilitate cleanup of the track, and when the race resumed, it was Earnhardt and DEI drivers Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip who were running up front. As the laps wound down, Waltrip was leading Earnhardt Jr. and Earnhardt.

On the front stretch coming to 3 laps to go, Earnhardt made contact with Sterling Marlin's front right fender. Earnhardt's car wiggled but Earnhardt kept control and he remained in third position. Marlin was known for having a fast car throughout the race, and Earnhardt repeatedly blocked his attempts at passing during the last few laps. With less than two laps remaining, Darrell Waltrip commented that "Sterling has beat the front end off of that old Dodge (Marlin's car) trying to get around Dale (Earnhardt)".

Heading into Turn 3 on the last lap, Earnhardt was racing three wide with Marlin to his left and Schrader to his right. For reasons unknown, Earnhardt's car veered down. The left rear quarter of Earnhardt's car made slight contact with Marlin's front bumper.

Earnhardt’s car slid off the track's steep banking, onto the flat apron, and then turned sharply up the track toward the outside retaining wall. Although it briefly looked as though Earnhardt was going to avoid hitting the wall, the #3 car collided with the #36 Pontiac driven by Ken Schrader. Schrader's car hit Earnhardt's car just behind the passenger door, causing Earnhardt's car to snap, rapidly changing the angle of his car toward the wall. Earnhardt's car ran into the wall nose-first. Earnhardt's car hit at a critical angle at nearly 160 miles per hour. The right-rear wheel assembly broke off the car on impact. The passenger window broke out of the car. The hood pins severed and the hood opened, slamming back against the windshield. As Earnhardt was nose first on the wall, Schrader was pushing Earnhardt's car along the wall.

Despite heavy damage to the car, to outside observers, the crash looked relatively less serious and hard compared to other NASCAR related crashes, especially the multi-car wreck that had occurred earlier in the race that resulted in Tony Stewart's car being destroyed.

While Michael Waltrip raced toward the checkered flag to claim his first victory, with Earnhardt Jr. close behind, the cars of Earnhardt and Schrader slid off the track's asphalt banking toward the infield grass just inside of turn four. Earnhardt finished 11th. After climbing from his car, Schrader peered into Earnhardt's car, only to immediately jump back and signal for emergency medical technicians while Earnhardt's son Earnhardt Jr. rushed to the crash scene. As medical crews converged upon the crash scene, NASCAR on Fox reporter Jeanne Zelasko asked Schrader about Earnhardt's condition. "I don't know. I'm not a doctor, but I got the heck out of the way as soon as they got there," Schrader said. Earnhardt was taken to Halifax Medical Center by ambulance after being removed from his car. Hours later, at a press conference, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced Earnhardt's death: "This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements I've personally had to make. But after the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt."[6]

Aftermath

Earnhardt's death was the catalyst for a number of changes in NASCAR. Following his death, there was a police investigation, as well as a NASCAR-sanctioned investigation. Nearly every detail of the event was made public, from the finding of a torn seatbelt inside Earnhardt's car to graphic descriptions of the injuries the driver suffered at the moment of impact. There were rumors that he did not have his seat belt on properly, as he liked to wear it loose so he could move around and not feel too constrained. The allegations of seatbelt failure led Bill Simpson to resign from the company bearing his name, which manufactured the seatbelts used in Earnhardt's car and nearly every other NASCAR competitor's machine.[7]

NASCAR also made the use of the HANS device mandatory in all cars following Earnhardt's death. Until that point, use of the HANS device was optional, at the discretion of the drivers or teams. Earnhardt had refused to wear the device, arguing it was uncomfortable and ineffective. He was not using a HANS device on the day he died of a Basilar skull fracture. The HANS device is designed to prevent such injuries.

Several press conferences were held in the days following Earnhardt's death. Some angry fans of Dale Earnhardt wrote hate letters and death threats to Sterling Marlin, blaming him for causing the crash. Quickly thereafter, Michael Waltrip and Earnhardt's son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., publicly and adamantly absolved Marlin of any responsibility.

Richard Childress made a public pledge that the number 3 would never again adorn the side of a black car sponsored by GM Goodwrench. Childress, who currently holds the rights from NASCAR to the #3, has placed a moratorium on using it. Earnhardt's team was re-christened as the #29 team, with the same sponsor but with a new look (a reversed color scheme with white with black numerals and a black stripe on the bottom) for the following races at Rockingham and Las Vegas. For Atlanta, a new GM Goodwrench scheme was introduced, with angled red stripes and a thin blue pinstripe, resembling the Childress AC Delco Chevrolets driven in the Busch Series.

Childress' second-year Busch Series driver Kevin Harvick was named as Earnhardt's replacement driver, beginning with the race following Earnhardt's death held at the North Carolina Speedway. Special hats bearing the #3 were distributed to everyone at the track to honor Earnhardt, and the Childress team wore blank uniforms out of respect, something which disappeared quickly and was replaced by the wearing of the GM Goodwrench Service Plus uniforms.

Fans took it upon themselves to begin honoring Earnhardt by holding three fingers aloft on the third lap of every NASCAR Cup race, and the television coverage of NASCAR on Fox and NASCAR on NBC went silent for each third lap from Rockingham through to the next Daytona 500 in honor of Earnhardt (and, after 9/11, in remembrance of those who perished that day). For the first three weeks after Earnhardt's death, on-track incidents brought out the caution flag on lap three. Three weeks after Earnhardt's death, Harvick scored his first career Cup win at Atlanta driving a car that had been prepared for Earnhardt. In the final lap of the 2001 Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500, Harvick beat Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds, the same margin that Earnhardt won over Bobby Labonte at the same race a year prior, and the images of Earnhardt's longtime gas man, Danny "Chocolate" Myers, crying after the victory, Harvick's tire-smoking burnout on the frontstretch with three fingers held aloft outside the driver's window, and the Fox television call by Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, and Darrell Waltrip, concluding with "Gordon got loose, it's Harvick! Harvick by inches!" are memorable to many NASCAR fans. The win was also considered cathartic for a sport whose epicenter had been ripped away.

Earnhardt was buried on his farm in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Other notable events include:

  • Steve Park, driver of the #1 DEI Pennzoil Chevy Monte Carlo won the very next NASCAR Winston Cup race: The DuraLube 400 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, NC held on February 26, 2001.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in the next Cup race at Daytona: the Pepsi 400 on July 7, 2001. This led to an emotional celebration on the infield with driver Michael Waltrip, whose victory at the Daytona 500 was vastly overshadowed.
  • Las Vegas, the 3rd race of the 2001 season, was noted for the fact that Mike Skinner, Earnhardt's teammate at Richard Childress Racing, took over Earnhardt's slot in the No Bull 5 million dollar eligibility for this race since Earnhardt had qualified for the No Bull 5 prize after his final victory in the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega. This is the only time that a switch of driver for the No Bull 5 has ever happened.
  • Earnhardt was credited with finishing 57th in the final point standings in 2001, despite running one race. He also won the 2001 Most Popular Driver award at the end of the year in the awards' ceremony banquet. Bill Elliott bowed out of the running and encouraged the same fans that had put him up for the prestigious award 16 times to vote for the Man in Black.
  • Earnhardt Jr. later went on to win the 2004 Daytona 500, three years after his father's death and six years to the day after his father won the 1998 Daytona 500. He also won the EA Sports 500 at Talladega that same year.
  • As of 2010, Earnhardt is interred in a concrete memorial on his farm in Mooresville, North Carolina.
  • In 2010, Dale Earnhardt was one of the five inductees in the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • Two world class roller coasters have been named after Earnhardt; the most popular being Intimidator (roller coaster) at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina, the other being Intimidator 305 located at Kings Dominion in Virginia.

#3 Car

Earnhardt in the #3 car

Earnhardt drove the #3 car for most of his career, spanning the early 1980s until his death in 2001. Although he had other sponsors during his career, his #3 is associated in fans' minds with his last sponsor, GM Goodwrench, and his last color scheme — a predominantly black car with bold red and silver trim. The black and red #3 continues to be one of the most famous logos in North American motor racing.

A common misconception is that Richard Childress Racing "owns the rights" to the #3 (fueled by the fact that Kevin Harvick's car has a little #3 as an homage to Earnhardt), but in fact no team owns the rights to this or any other number: However, according to established NASCAR procedures, RCR would have priority over other teams if and when the time came to reuse the number. RCR and the Earnhardt estate do own the rights to various black and red #3 logos used during Earnhardt's lifetime; however these rights would not prevent a future racing team from using a different #3 design. (Also, a new #3 team would, in any case, need to create logos which fit with their sponsor's logos.)

In 2004, ESPN released a made-for-TV movie entitled 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story which used a new (but similarly colored) #3 logo. The movie was a sympathetic portrayal of Earnhardt's life, but the producers were sued for using the #3 logo. In December 2006, the ESPN lawsuit was settled, but details were not released to the public.

It is generally believed that current NASCAR owners have agreed never to use the #3 in Sprint Cup competition again, although this is not official NASCAR policy. Dale Earnhardt Jr. made two special appearances in 2002 in a #3 Busch Series car: these appearances were at the track where his father died (Daytona) and the track where his father made his first Winston Cup start (Charlotte). Earnhardt Jr. won the first of those two races, which was the season-opening event at Daytona. He also raced a #3 sponsored by Wrangler on July 2, 2010 for Richard Childress Racing at Daytona. In a green-white- checker finish he outran Joey Logano to win his second race in the 3.

Otherwise, the #3 was missing from the national touring series until September 5, 2009, when Austin Dillon, the 19-year-old grandson of Richard Childress debuted an RCR-owned #3 truck in the Camping World Truck Series.[8] Austin Dillon and his younger brother Ty Dillon have been driving #3's in various lower level competitions for several years, including the Camping World East Series.[9]

Richard Childress Racing entered the number 3 in the Daytona Truck race on 13 February 2010 painted identically to when Earnhardt drove it, but with Bass Pro Shops as a sponsor. It was driven by Austin Dillon. Oddly, the number 3 was involved in a wreck almost identical to that which took the life of Earnhardt: being spun out, colliding with another vehicle and being turned into the outside wall in turn number four.[10]

Only the former International Race of Champions actually retired the #3, which they did in a rule change effective in 2004. Until the series folded in 2007, anyone wishing to use the #3 again had to use #03 instead.

In 2009, Tim McGraw released the song "Southern Voice;" the song makes reference to Earnhardt and the number 3 in the line "Number Three drove it."

In the movie Zombieland, Woody Harrelson's character, Tallahasee, draws a 3 on his car doors. He does this to pay homage to Earnhardt.

The Christian metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada have a song titled "Number Three, Never Forget" in honor of Dale Earnhardt.[11] [12]

Legacy

Earnhardt was a very polarizing figure in NASCAR. He was both loved and hated in the sport, yet despite his numerous detractors, Earnhardt remained one of the sport's most popular drivers. His death drew a considerable amount of reaction from the nation, NASCAR, and his fans.

Earnhardt kept his personal life relatively private. He enjoyed the company of his family, being outdoors, hunting and fishing, and actively working on his farm in Mooresville. In contrast with his image as a hardnosed competitor on the track, off the track he was known to his friends as someone who was charitable and generous, but usually kept that side of himself hidden from the rest of the world.

Earnhardt has a street in his hometown of Kannapolis named after him. Dale Earnhardt Boulevard (originally Earnhardt Road) is marked as Exit 60 off Interstate 85, northeast of Charlotte. Dale Earnhardt Drive is also the start of The Dale Journey Trail,[13] a self-guided driving tour of landmarks in the lives of Dale and his family. A road between Kannapolis and Mooresville, near the headquarters of DEI, formerly NC 136, was switched with State Highway 3 which was in Currituck County by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. In addition, Exit 73 off Interstate 35W, one of the entrances to Texas Motor Speedway, is named "Dale Earnhardt Way".

In 2000, shortly before his death, Earnhardt became a part-owner of the minor league baseball team in Kannapolis, and the team was renamed the Kannapolis Intimidators shortly thereafter. After his death, the team retired the jersey number 3 in Earnhardt's honor, and a "3" flag flies beyond the left field wall during every game.

Recording artist Jason Swain's song "Victory Lane" was among many songs released in tribute to Earnhardt posthumously.

Atlanta Braves assistant coach Ned Yost was a friend of Earnhardt, and Richard Childress. When Yost was named Milwaukee Brewers manager, he changed jersey numbers, from #5 to #3 in Earnhardt's honor. (#3 is retired by the Braves in honor of outfielder Dale Murphy, so Yost could not make the change while in Atlanta.) When Yost was named Kansas City Royals assistant coach, he wore #2 for the 2010 season, even when he was named manager in May 2010, but for the 2011 season, he switched back to #3.

Between the 2004 and 2005 JGTC (subsequently renamed Super GT from 2005) season, Hasemi Sport competed in the series with a sole black G'Zox sponsored Nissan 350Z with the same number and letterset as Earnhardt on the roof.

A 2005 novel, St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb explores the world of NASCAR as it follows several racing fans on a tribute tour of tracks in memory of Earnhardt.

During the April 29, 2006 – May 1, 2006 NASCAR weekend races at Talladega Superspeedway, the Dale Earnhardt Inc cars competed in identical special black paint schemes on Dale Earnhardt Day, held annually on his birthday, April 29. Martin Truex Jr won the Aaron's 312 in the black car, painted to reflect Earnhardt's Intimidating Black #3 NASCAR Busch Grand National series car. In the Nextel Cup race on May 1, #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr., #1 Martin Truex Jr., and #15 Paul Menard competed in cars with the same type of paint scheme.

On June 18, 2006 at Michigan for the 3M Performance 400 Dale Earnhardt Jr ran a special vintage Budweiser car to honor his father and his grandfather Ralph Earnhardt. He finished 3rd after rain caused the race to be cut short. The car was painted to resemble Ralph's 1956 dirt cars, and carried 1956-era Budweiser logos to complete the throwback look.

In the summer of 2007, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) with the Dale Earnhardt Foundation, announced it will fund an annual undergraduate scholarship at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina for students interested in motorsports and automotive engineering. Scholarship winners are also eligible to work at DEI in internships.[14] The first winner was William Bostic, a senior at Clemson majoring in mechanical engineering.[15]

"Earnhardt Tower", a seating section at Daytona International Speedway, the track where Earnhardt was killed, was named in his honor.

In 2008, on the 50th anniversary of the first Daytona 500 race, DEI and RCR teamed up to make a special COT sporting Earnhardt's 1998 Daytona 500 paint scheme to honor the tenth anniversary of his Daytona 500 victory. In a tribute to all previous Daytona 500 winners, the winning drivers appeared in a lineup on stage, in chronological order. The redesigned #3 car stood in the infield, in the approximate position Earnhardt would have taken in the processional. The throwback car featured the authentic 1998-era design on a current-era car, a concept similar to modern throwback jerseys in other sports. The car was later sold in 1:64 and 1:24 scale models.

The Intimidator 305 roller coaster has been up and running since April 2010 at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia. Named after Earnhardt, the ride's trains will be modeled after Dale Earnhardt's black-and-red Chevrolet. [16] Another Intimidator was built at Carowinds, in Charlotte, NC.

During the third lap of the 2011 Daytona 500, the commentators on FOX fell silent while fans each raised three fingers in a similar fashion to the tributes throughout 2001.[17]

Awards

In music

  • In 1997, Earnhardt appeared as a special guest with his close friends, the country duo Brooks and Dunn, in the video for Brooks and Dunn's hit song, "Honky Tonk Truth". The video was a play on Earnhardt's resemblance to Kix Brooks, with the two switching roles throughout the video.
  • In 2004, Keith Bryant released the album Ridin' with the Legend, with the title track being a tribute to Earnhardt called "The Last Ride", based on David Allan Coe's "The Ride (The Ghost of Hank Williams)"[19]
  • Charlie Daniels wrote and performed a song called "The Intimidator" about Earnhardt.
  • John Boy and Billy presented a song set to the music of "Uneasy Rider" by the Charlie Daniels Band called "The Bristol Song", which recounts the interactions between Rusty Wallace and Earnhardt at the August 1995 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
  • Country singer Travis Tritt plays a guitar with Earnhardt's image airbrushed onto the front during concerts.
  • Troy Gentry, of the country duo Montgomery Gentry, also had a guitar with the #3 and a picture of Earnhardt on its face, which was played during their Crossroads television special with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Similarly, Gentry's bandmate Eddie Montgomery can be seen with Earnhardt's #3 embroidered onto both sleeves of his trademark black trenchcoat in the video for the song "Speed".
  • The Bled's first album, Pass the Flask, includes a song called "You Know Who's Seatbelt", which is loosely based on Earnhardt's story. The song was originally titled "Dale Earnhardt's Seatbelt", but was subsequently changed for legal reasons. It is still labeled as such in the liner notes.[20]
  • Jason Aldean says "Carolina was a black car, A big white number three." in the song Texas was you.[21]
  • Billy Ray Cyrus's song "The Man" is a tribute to Earnhardt. He also mentions Earnhardt in the song "As Country As Country Can Be" near the start of the track, saying "NASCAR and Earnhardt, Still miss number three".
  • The Bowling For Soup song "99 Biker Friends" has the lyrics "your tiny pickup truck in the driveway, with the sticker on the window, 'rest in peace #3'" near the start of the track.[22]
  • Cledus T. Judd's comedy spoof song, "I Love NASCAR", styled after Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar", features a verse by Toby Keith singing, "I love NASCAR, it's my kind of race. Just to see Big E back on the track, Would put a smile on every face. No-one drove a car quite like Earnhardt..."[23]
  • There was a special single of Tim McGraw's "Please Remember Me" with sound bytes from the day of the race and later interviews called the "Dale Earnhardt Tribute"
  • Similarly, there was a special single of Garth Brook's "The Dance," with sound bytes from the day of the race and later interviews, also called the "Dale Earnhardt Tribute"
  • John Hiatt devotes a verse to Earnhardt in "The Tiki Bar is Open", singing "Well his name was Mr. Dale Earnhardt / And he drove the black number 3 / The king is gone, but he'll not be forgotten / Nor his like will we ever see"[24]
  • Country singer Chris Cagle mentions Earnhardt in his hit song "Chicks Dig It" (2nd Verse)[25]
  • Country singer Trace Adkins speaks of Earnhardt in his song "Rough and Ready" on the Comin' on Strong album.[26]
  • Southern metal band Weedeater also paid a tribute to Earnhardt with the song "#3" from the album Sixteen Tons which features the band playing over television broadcasts of Earnhardt's races.
  • Diamond Rio's song "One More Day" was remade with tidbits of the announcement of his death
  • Jimmy Buffett dedicated the song "Take Another Road" to Earnhardt during a concert at the Charlotte Coliseum, two days after his death.
  • Dave Grohl owns a Gibson Les Paul-style guitar made from NASCAR car parts which Earnhardt gave him.
  • In Tim McGraw's song "Southern Voice", Tim sings "Number 3 Drove It."[27]
  • In the song "New 88" by Ray Steele he mentioned Dale Earnhardt at the beginning of the song and then goes into talk about Jr.
  • Country music singer Blake Shelton references Dale Earnhardt in the song "Kiss my Country Ass" with the line "Earnhardt sticker behind my head and my woman by my side"[28]
  • Singer/Songwriter, Kacey Jones released her CD "Til Earnhardt Wins Cup #8" in September 2000.
  • NBA player Ron Artest said in his song "Champion, "I'm Dale Earnhardt"[29]
  • Jay-z made a reference to Earnhardt in a song called lift off with Kanye West and Beyonce. He says " When you Earnhart as me eventually you hit a big wall."[30]
  • Rapper Cam'ron mentions Dale in his song halftime. He says,"Crashburn, rest in peace, Dale Earnhardt." [31]
  • Rapper Kendrick Lamar mentions Dale in his song Growing Apart. He says,"I’m off track like Dale Earnhardt."[32]
  • Rapper Jay-z mentions Dale in his song Addicted to the game. He says,"But like Dale Earnhardt the game is racing through my veins and I crash every time, but like I never hit the wall."[33]
  • Rapper Ed O.G. mentions Dale in his song Questions. He says,"You can't get it, got to earn hard Or hit the wall like Dale Earnhardt.[34]
  • Rapper Celph Titled mentions Dale in the song The deal maker. He says,"Cause I appear on more tracks than Dale Earnhardt’s ghost."[35]
  • Immortal Technique – The Getaway mentions Dale. He says,"I kill kids on tracks like Dale Earnhardt."[36]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Brinster, Dick (February 19, 2001). "Dale Earnhardt dies in crash on final lap of Daytona 500". Associated Press. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=kPMwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XN0FAAAAIBAJ&pg=2760,1972698&dq=dale+earnhardt+crash&hl=en. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Dale Earnhardt". The Crittenden Automotive Library. http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/e/earnhardtdale.php. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Lars (February 21, 2011). "Number 3 Still Roars Ten Years After: Dale Earnhardt died in the 2001 Daytona 500, but even as the green flag flies for this year's race and a new Sprint Cup season, his legacy is felt throughout the sport—and in the lives of three men in particular". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1182014/index.htm. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  4. ^ "Ryan McGee: Best and worst of NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet nights past — ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. 2009-01-12. http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/cup/columns/story?columnist=mcgee_ryan&id=3736700. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  5. ^ "2001 Rolex 24 at Daytona"; Retrieved January 2, 2011.
  6. ^ "Earnhardt dies following Daytona 500 accident"; Dave Rodman, Turner Sports Interactive, February 21, 2001; NASCAR.com. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
  7. ^ Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man in Black. Hinton, Ed. Warner Books, 2001. ISBN 0-446-52677-0.
  8. ^ David Caraviello (2009-09-03). "Childress grandson brings No. 3 back to national level — Sep 3, 2009". Nascar.Com. http://www.nascar.com/2009/news/headlines/truck/09/03/rcr.adillon.3/index.html. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  9. ^ NASCAR.COM – Childress' grandson driving No. 3 car back to NASCAR – March 20, 2008
  10. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT_EIWs5k-0%7CWatch 0:13
  11. ^ Jim Slotek. "Zombieland' a lively undead flick". Sun Media. http://jam.canoe.ca/Movies/Reviews/Z/Zombieland/2009/10/02/11247606-sun.html. "Indeed, everything about Zombieland says "fast." Look no further than the Dale Earnhardt #3 that zombie-killer Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) sports on the door of his jalopy." 
  12. ^ Josh Levin (2009-10-01). "Naked Female Zombies Running in Slow Motion. The subtle nuances of Zombieland.". Slate.com. http://www.slate.com/id/2231160/. 
  13. ^ Welcome to "The Dale Trail"
  14. ^ "DEI partners with Clemson motorsports. Clemson World. Fall 2007. p. 5.
  15. ^ "Earnhardt Motorsports Scholar". Clemson World. Fall 2007. p. 31.
  16. ^ "The Ride :: Intimidator 305 :: Kings Dominion :: Doswell, Virginia". Intimidator 305. http://www.intimidator305.com/public/ride/. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  17. ^ "Bayne Becomes Youngest Daytona 500 Winner as Nascar's Past, Future Unite". Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-20/rookie-trevor-bayne-wins-nascar-s-daytona-500-from-carl-edwards.html. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  18. ^ North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame | Raleigh, NC
  19. ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/bryant-keith/ridin-with-the-legend-14043.html
  20. ^ http://www.eyeslyrics.com/lyrics/T/the-bled/dale-earnhardts-seatbelt
  21. ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/aldean-jason/texas-was-you-31084.html
  22. ^ http://www.elyrics.net/read/b/bowling-for-soup-lyrics/99-biker-friends-lyrics.html
  23. ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/cledus-t-judd/i-love-nascar-13658.html
  24. ^ http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-tiki-bar-is-open-lyrics-john-hiatt.html
  25. ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/cagle-chris/chicks-dig-it-3400.html
  26. ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/adkins-trace/rough-&-ready-11387.html
  27. ^ http://www.metrolyrics.com/southern-voice-lyrics-tim-mcgraw.html
  28. ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/shelton-blake/kiss-my-country-ass-29477.html
  29. ^ http://www.elyricsworld.com/champion_lyrics_ron_artest.html
  30. ^ http://www.killerhiphop.com/jay-z-kanye-west-lift-off-lyrics/
  31. ^ http://rapgenius.com/Camron-halftime-show-lyrics
  32. ^ http://rapgenius.com/Kendrick-lamar-growing-apart-from-everything-lyrics
  33. ^ http://rapgenius.com/Jay-z-addicted-to-the-game-lyrics
  34. ^ http://rapgenius.com/Ed-og-questions-lyrics#
  35. ^ http://rapgenius.com/Celph-titled-the-deal-maker-lyrics
  36. ^ http://rapgenius.com/Immortal-technique-the-getaway-lyrics

External links

Achievements
Preceded by
Jeff Gordon
Daytona 500 winner
1998
Succeeded by
Jeff Gordon
Preceded by
Terry Labonte
IROC Champion
IROC XIV (1990)
Succeeded by
Rusty Wallace
Preceded by
Mark Martin
IROC Champion
IROC XIX (1995)
Succeeded by
Mark Martin
Preceded by
Mark Martin
IROC Champion
IROC XXIII (1999) – IROC XXIV (2000)
Succeeded by
Bobby Labonte
Preceded by
Richard Petty
NASCAR Winston Cup Champion
1980
Succeeded by
Darrell Waltrip
Preceded by
Darrell Waltrip
NASCAR Winston Cup Champion
1986, 1987
Succeeded by
Bill Elliott
Preceded by
Rusty Wallace
NASCAR Winston Cup Champion
1990, 1991
Succeeded by
Alan Kulwicki
Preceded by
Alan Kulwicki
NASCAR Winston Cup Champion
1993, 1994
Succeeded by
Jeff Gordon
Awards
Preceded by
Jeff Gordon
NASCAR EA cover athlete
19992000
Succeeded by
Tony Stewart
Preceded by
Bill Elliott
NASCAR Most Popular Driver
2001
Succeeded by
Bill Elliott

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