In Memory Of Dale Earnhardt

Legendary Dale Earnhardt Race Suit Up For Auction
Auto Racing Daily
October 12, 2006

Auctionwire is offering the rare opportunity to own Dale Earnhardt’s race-worn uniform to help raise money for Victory Junction. Bidders have the exclusive opportunity to own this piece of racing history by participating in an online auction. The auction runs from October 10, 2006 until October 20, on

Auctionwire considers the chance to own Dale Earnhardt’s suit to be a very unique opportunity. Experts have valued this rare piece of NASCAR memorabilia at over $100,000.

This exclusive suit was worn by 4-time IROC Champion and one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, Dale Earnhardt. This suit bears the 50th Anniversary of NASCAR logo, appearing on suits from 1998; the same year the Dale Earnhardt won the Daytona 500.

Auctionwire is North America’s leading online auction management agency. Formed in 2004, Auctionwire specializes in the development and management of high-profile auctions and uses eBay as an effective means to generate positive publicity and exposure to help charities and corporations alike.

The mission of the Victory Junction Gang Camp is to enrich the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun, and empowering, in a safe and medically sound environment. Founded by NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his wife Pattie in honor of their late son Adam, the Victory Junction Gang Camp is a year-round facility serving children, age 7 to 15. Each summer, children suffering from similar medical conditions including heart, lung and kidney disease, spina bifida, HIV, cancer, burn survivors, neurological disorders, and a host of others, gather to kick back, relax and have some fun. The camp offers traditional activities, including horseback riding, boating and fishing, arts and crafts and others, as well as NASCAR related program areas.

Earnhardt enters Hall of Fame
April 27, 2006

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt was already the most popular driver stock car racing has ever known.

Now he's a Hall of Famer, too.

The seven-time NASCAR champion, who died in a crash during the 2001 Daytona 500, was inducted Thursday night into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

There was never any doubt that The Intimidator would be a part of the Hall of Fame as soon as the five-year waiting period was up, and he was finally inducted Thursday night with the appropriate fanfare, in front of family, friends, competitors and fans.

Richard Childress, who fielded cars for six of Earnhardt's championships and was also one of his closest friends, made a special presentation before the induction of Earnhardt, who would have been 55 on Saturday.

``It was an honor and a privilege for me to work with the late Dale Earnhardt for 20 years and, more important, to be his friend,'' said Childress, who presented one of Earnhardt's famed No. 3 Chevrolets to the Hall of Fame.

The car was pushed into the auditorium by Earnhardt's original RCR crew, who won fame as the ``Flying Aces'' as the audience stood and cheered.

NBC's Brian Williams, in a taped video, then eulogized his friend, saying, ``Dale Earnhardt was an icon. Those who didn't know it when he died, realized it when they saw him on the cover of Time Magazine.''

Williams, who said he still has a No. 3 decal on the back of his own car in memory of Earnhardt, then introduced Teresa Earnhardt, who accepted the honor for her late husband.

Also on stage were Earnhardt's sons Dale Jr. and Kerry and daughters Kelli and Taylor.

The Hall of Fame class of 2006 also included longtime NASCAR team owner Jack Roush, Winston Cup and Busch Series star Harry Gant, Janet Guthrie, the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500 and the most successful woman in NASCAR's history, and Charlotte track president and promoter extraordinary H.A. ``Humpy'' Wheeler.

Earnhardt to honor father with replica car
By Jenna Fryer
AP Motorsports Writer
April 25, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- One object in any NASCAR driver's rearview mirror that may have appeared closer than it actually was: Dale Earnhardt's black No. 3 Chevrolet.

Especially if ``The Intimidator'' was gaining.

Gentlemen, start your trembling. There's an Earnhardt back in black.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will mark his late father's birthday this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway by driving a likeness of the No. 3 car his father made famous.

Junior's trademark red Chevy will be painted predominantly black, with white lettering and silver and red stripes. Junior will still use his No. 8 -- his father's No. 3 has not been on the track since his 2001 death.

``The car looks good, it's a cool way to honor my dad,'' Earnhardt said Tuesday. ``It's going to be a lot of fun to be behind the wheel of that car, and see the reaction it gets from other drivers on the track.''

The tribute is part of a larger salute at Dale Earnhardt Inc., which is celebrating Earnhardt's Thursday night induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame, his overall accomplishments at Talladega and his 55th birthday, which would have been Saturday.

All three DEI cars will have the same paint scheme, which Junior views as an appropriate celebration of the seven-time champion. He seemed uncomfortable in February marking the five-year anniversary of his father's death, but birthdays bring happier memories.

``His birthday is something I do enjoy pointing out or celebrating or recognizing because that was always a lot of fun with him,'' Junior said. ``When he was getting a little older we was always thinking about what his real age was. There's some things that come and go without a blink of an eye. But there are other things that come and go that you want to point out and you want to recognize and you do appreciate.''

Junior's car will be the most dramatic of the three DEI entries. After all, it's at Talladega and Daytona -- the two biggest and fastest tracks in NASCAR -- where Junior bears the closest resemblance to his father.

Dale Earnhardt was the greatest at restrictor-plate racing, especially at Talladega, where he scored 10 wins and notched the 76th and final victory of his career in October 2000.

Junior inherited the skill required to work the draft. He has five victories at Talladega and two at Daytona.

But none compare to his father's last victory, when he charged from 18th place with five laps to go to cross the finish line first.

``I was running second thinking I was in a position to try to get me a win, and I can see him and his line formed on the outside coming up, getting closer and closer,'' Junior said. ``Every time I look in the mirror, he'd moved up a few more feet toward us and was coming on. So everybody was sort of in a panic mode as if, `Wait a minute now, this thing ain't playing out like we had in mind.'''

Junior said drives like that Talladega victory were the ones his father cherished.

``He would do all kinds of stuff like that, make big comebacks or big, great saves or just crazy passes,'' Junior remembered. ``Everybody always said he could do a lot of things with a race car a lot of other people couldn't. He'd take pride in those things personally.

``Never would get out and jump up and down and brag about it. But when it was all said and done and over with, and everybody went home, he would take pride in doing those things. I think that comeback was one he really, really enjoyed.''

Earnhardt's legacy still looms large over NASCAR
By Bruce Martin
SportsTicker Contributing Editor
February 18, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Ticker) - The date is indelibly etched in history of American sports.

February 18, 2001 will forever be remembered as "Black Sunday" at Daytona. It was the day the unthinkable happened, when Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash at the final turn of the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt had a mythic presence. He was a super hero in NASCAR, a driver who seemed bulletproof and indestructible.

His death shook the sport to its very roots.

Many believed Earnhardt's death would be the end of NASCAR's rapid growth, that without the hero, interest would fade and the sport would never reach its lofty goals of challenging the National Football League and Major League Baseball for American sporting supremacy.

Even NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France admits that Dale Earnhardt is irreplaceable and to this point, no one in the garage area has filled the void.

"Dale Earnhardt is much like Michael Jordan," France said. "They just don't come around very often. A lot of things have to line up. The guy won seven championships, really understood the sport and was a great champion of the sport.

"I don't think anybody could fill his shoes. Someday maybe someone will, but that day hasn't come yet."

There are plenty of candidates who could have taken that role, from four-time Nextel series champion Jeff Gordon to two-time champ Tony Stewart to fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Each has carved his own piece of fame in NASCAR, but still none is bigger than the man whose memory is being honored this year at Daytona.

Five years after his death, Earnhardt's influence is ever present here. There are still fans that wave the trademark No. 3 flag, even though that number has never appeared on another car in the Nextel series.

And Earnhardt's death, if anything, has helped NASCAR grow in the American sports consciousness. NASCAR, which continues to thrive financially, agreed in December to eight-year television contracts with ABC Sports and ESPN, FOX, TNT and SPEED, beginning in 2007.

One thing that has changed drastically over the last five years is the life and public perception of Earnhardt Jr., who witnessed his father's fatal crash in his rear-view mirror in 2001.

A fixture on the Nextel circuit and one of the sport's most popular figures, Earnhardt Jr. tries not to dwell on his father's tragic passing.

"I don't take many mental notes as far as that goes," Earnhardt Jr. "I just want to get in the race car and race and have fun, get out of the race car, tend to my Busch team, tend to other activities we have going on. (I want to) enjoy the experiences that I get from those, win a championship, win more races, win those Daytona type of races - those meaningful races - and be proud and satisfied what I'm doing."

Unfortunately for Earnhardt Jr., he has been thrust into the public spotlight in a far bigger way because of his father's death.

Fans who openly rooted for Earnhardt adopted his son as their favorite driver, creating an even bigger legion of fans for the driver of the red Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

This newfound fame sometimes has made it difficult for Earnhardt Jr. to be himself.

"I say what I think," he said. "And a lot of times what I say may have a different impact on me than it does on you. A lot of times it digs a little deeper when I didn't intend it to.

"It was hard to be Dale Jr. when dad was around," Earnhardt Jr. continued. "It's still tough. (There are) a lot of advantages, I had a lot of fun. ... When he was around, man, you knew he was there. That was tough. But, you know, I miss him a lot. Obviously, you know, he was - he could be a huge assist in a lot of things that happened to me personally over the last five years."

Young Earnhardt said fame has not been a burden, that it has allowed him to do a lot of great things. But while Dale Jr. is living it, his father is being remembered for his legacy.

"I want his legacy to be sort of a John Wayne type or, you know, a Clint Eastwood style legacy," Earnhardt Jr. said. "That he did a good job when he worked. He'd give you everything he could give you, he'd try to do his best. He was respected."

Five years after Earnhardt's death, the sport remains speeding toward the future, looking through the windshield rather than the rear-view mirror.

But there are constant reminders of what happened here on that Black Sunday in 2001.

Five years later, NASCAR flourishing despite losing biggest star
By Jenna Fryer
AP Motorsports Writer
February 18, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- The toughest man to ever climb into a stock car was gone, killed in a violent crash in the final turn of the last lap of the Daytona 500.

In the blink of an eye, NASCAR lost more than a just another driver. Dale Earnhardt was a friend, a father, a leader and an icon. It was seemingly too many voids to ever fill.

The Intimidator -- the face of American racing -- was dead, changing the sport forever. Drivers were suddenly acutely aware of their own mortality, and as all of NASCAR mourned under a blinding spotlight, everyone wanted to know why.

``You can't let one bad moment spoil a bunch of good ones,'' Earnhardt used to say.

They didn't.

NASCAR, drivers, sponsors and fans did the only thing they knew how to do: They went racing.

``In some ways it amazes me that we were able to continue even into Rockingham the next weekend,'' NASCAR president Mike Helton said. ``But all that activity helped the healing process. You just got up every day, hoping the next day that you'd be good for the next step. Just being active and by running races and going to racetracks, it was almost like physical therapy.''

The show did go on after Earnhardt's Feb. 18, 2001 death, and in the five years since, NASCAR has flourished.

Its popularity is surging at the gates and in the television ratings. Four networks agreed to an eight-year, $4.48 billion broadcasting package that begins next season, and new sponsors are shelling out millions each year for a chance to put their logos on a race car.

Young new drivers have rocketed into stardom and given NASCAR crossover marketing appeal that stretches beyond the traditional fan into Madison Avenue and the MTV generation.

The top series ditched its tobacco ties when it switched title sponsors from Winston to Nextel, then it overhauled the points system to create a playoff-type championship format.

Earnhardt's son blossomed from a raw rookie soaking up everything under a father's watchful eye to the sport's biggest star. The past five years have been a roller-coaster for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was left to figure things out on his own.

Most of his father's fans migrated to Junior's camp, making him NASCAR's equivalent of a rock star. It's a burden that he struggles with because every word he utters, every statement he makes, has the potential to become headline news the next day.

``It was hard to be Dale Jr. when dad was around,'' he said. ``When he was around, man, you knew he was there. That was tough. But, you know, I miss him a lot. He could be a huge assist in a lot of things that happened to me personally over the last five years.''

Junior has persevered without his father's steady influence. But the loss is felt in other areas of the sport, particularly in safety advances that spawned from Earnhardt's death.

Earnhardt's accident forced every driver to accept that none of them was immune from a fatal accident. NASCAR, which previously left safety precautions up to individual drivers, was forced to take responsibility for protecting them.

``It was a tremendous tragedy -- it still breaks my heart -- but it had a significant impact on everyone in motorsports from the safety side of it,'' veteran Mark Martin said. ``Everyone got aggressive, from NASCAR on down to the grass roots of short track racing, much more aggressive after that.''

Among the safety advances made in the wake of Earnhardt's death:

-- Drivers are required to strap on head-and-neck restraints called HANS devices before getting into cars. Many believe that had Earnhardt worn such a device, used by only a few drivers five years ago, he'd still be alive.

-- Energy-absorbing ``soft walls'' have been installed at every oval track on the circuit.

-- Black boxes, like those mandated in airplanes, have been placed inside cars to record crash data.

-- Cockpits have been reconfigured, giving drivers additional padding to keep their heads from whipping around violently in an accident and giving them access to kill switches that instantly cut the power and trigger fire extinguishing systems.

-- And just last month, NASCAR announced it will begin phasing in the ``Car of Tomorrow'' in 2007. Developed by NASCAR, the car is taller, wider and boxier than current models and many believe it's the safest stock car ever designed.

``We would never be at the point we're at if his accident had never happened,'' said Kevin Harvick, who had the difficult task of taking over Earnhardt's team five days after his death. ``Safety is incredible how fast it advanced.''

But for all the advances made after Earnhardt's death, he is still sorely missed by the drivers he used to lead and the two teams he was most connected to.

The garage area lacks a single voice that speaks on behalf of all the drivers.

``Earnhardt was unchallenged in expressing himself,'' Helton said. ``He had no qualms about sitting down and taking us to task or asking us questions or voicing his opinion.''

When Earnhardt made one of his many stops in the NASCAR office, it was often after other drivers had gone to him with a complaint or issue. Earnhardt would listen and advise, and if he believed the argument had merit, he'd take it to the top.

Since his death, no one has stepped up to replace him. It's a role many expected four-time series champion Jeff Gordon to embrace, but he hasn't.

``I never really felt like it was my place to do that,'' Gordon said. ``I feel like over the years that I've been here, I've earned more respect. But I don't know if I'll ever have the type of respect that Dale had. The sport is different today than it was then.

``I just don't know if there is ever going to be one individual in this garage area that feels like they've got the voice.''

Two-time series champion Tony Stewart is slowly stepping into a leadership role, even if it is unintentional. Blunt and outspoken, his message is often heard loud and clear across the garage and in NASCAR headquarters.

Just this week, he complained so loudly about racing conditions at Daytona -- warning that there could be a fatality in Sunday's season-opener -- that NASCAR said it would police the bump-drafting technique Stewart had railed against.

But Stewart will be hard-pressed to be the mentor that Earnhardt often was. It's not in Stewart's nature to approach a fresh-faced rookie and offer him tips and tricks that will help him succeed.

Earnhardt did that to almost all the newcomers, cutting them off before they could invade the garage with attitude and aggression.

``Dale would sit us down, tell us how you're supposed to race, how you treat your sponsors and how you do things,'' said Elliott Sadler, rookie class of 1999. ``We don't have that stature figure anymore for young kids to look up to. It'd be neat to have another Dale Earnhardt step up and be the voice of all the drivers in the garage, but right now we don't have that.''

Two other areas that have struggled without Earnhardt are at Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company he founded, and at Richard Childress Racing, where he won six of his seven driving titles.

Both companies have slipped since his death.

Although DEI has won 19 races -- 14 by Earnhardt Jr. -- in the past five years, and RCR has eight victories, the bulk of the success came early when Earnhardt's imprint was still stamped all over the teams.

As his presence has faded, so have the teams. They combined for just two wins last year, neither had a driver in the Chase for the championship, and Harvick hasn't committed to stay with Childress beyond this season.

``Any time you lose a key figure, it's tough,'' Childress said. ``It probably hurt both of our organizations because we had plans of doing a lot of things and doing a lot of things together that we don't do today.

``If Dale would still have been here, I think RCR and DEI would be stronger companies.''

Junior carries the heavy responsibility of being the face of his father's company and turning its teams into perennial championship contenders. He's also in charge of carrying on his legacy -- something he has clear ideas about.

``I want his legacy to be sort of a John Wayne type or, you know, a Clint Eastwood-style legacy,'' Junior said. ``He did a good job when he worked. He'd give you everything he could give you. He'd try to do his best. He was respected, well-mannered, treated people the way he wanted to be treated.''

Earnhardt heads 2006 Motorsports Hall of Fame class
November 2, 2005

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- The late Dale Earnhardt, a seven-time NASCAR champion, heads the latest class of inductees to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Earnhardt is joined by team owner Jack Roush, NASCAR ace Harry Gant, female racing pioneer Janet Guthrie and racing executive H.A. ``Humpy'' Wheeler in the class to be inducted April 27.

``This is one heck of a class for 2006,'' Jim Freeman, executive director of the Hall, said Wednesday.

Earnhardt became one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR history, posting 76 victories and 281 top-five finishes en route to winning more than $40 million. He was a three-time Driver of the Year who also won 21 Busch races and four IROC Series championships.

He was killed in a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.

Roush Racing team has claimed championships in the Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series. Roush's five-car team has won the last two Cup titles.

Gant won more than 300 short-track races, including 21 in the NASCAR Sportsman series, now the Busch series. Gant left Winston Cup in 1994 with 18 wins and 17 poles. He also raced in a limited number of truck series races in 1996.

In 1977, Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and in the Daytona 500. She finished ninth in the 1978 Indianapolis 500 with a team she formed, owned and managed. It was the best showing for a woman at Indy until Danica Patrick's fourth-place finish this season.

Guthrie's top Cup finish was sixth at Bristol in 1977, and she qualified ninth at both Talladega and Bristol that year.

Wheeler has been the innovative president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., for nearly three decades. The track was the first to use an advanced lighting system to host night races and offer extensive VIP suits and condominiums.

ARTICLE: Travel back in time for Dale Earnhardt's final victory
By Dustin Long, The Virginia-Pilot
© September 30, 2005

Dale Earnhardt keyed his radio to talk to spotter Danny Culler. Earnhardt was moments from dueling with 42 other drivers at 190 mph.

“All right, Danny; get in this car with me,” Earnhardt commanded. “Get in here with me.”

Culler stood atop a tower overlooking Talladega Superspeedway’s start/finish line. Earnhardt’s message was clear: Be the black car’s guardian angel.

“I’m in there with you, champ,” Culler said.

He always called Earnhardt champ.

No driver in history was better at this 2.66-mile track, where NASCAR returns to race Sunday.

Yet, Earnhardt’s edge had faded on this cloudless October day five years ago. New rules had altered the aerodynamics of the cars and the strategies of the race teams.

Drivers had most of the afternoon to test the seven-time series champion before the final rush to the finish .

Too late.

Earnhardt, 18th with five laps left, charged to the lead as the white flag waved. Fifty-three seconds later, he had completed one of NASCAR’s greatest rallies.

No one knew that day that his 76th career Winston Cup victory would be his last. He died four months later in the Daytona 500.

Though Earnhardt celebrated his 10th career Talladega win amid confetti, cheers and champagne, the stirring comeback that carried him to Victory Lane shocked even him.

“I don’t know how I won it,” he said.

Here’s how.

Earnhardt warned fans and officials what the 2000 Daytona 500 would be like days before the event.

“They took NASCAR Winston Cup racing and made it some of the sorriest racing,” he said after his 125-mile qualifying race. NASCAR founder “Mr. Bill France Sr. probably rolled over in his grave.”

Earnhardt was right about the racing.

That year’s Daytona 500 was a dull affair. The nine lead changes were the fewest the race had seen in 35 years. TV ratings fell to their lowest level in five years. Daytona’s July race was as uninspiring.

The Oct. 15 event at Talladega would be NASCAR’s final restrictor-plate race in 2000. The next would be the season-opening Daytona 500 in 2001, when a new network TV package debuted and the series hoped to reach a larger audience. An entertaining Daytona 500 would recharge the sport’s momentum. A lackluster event would stunt growth.

So series officials tinkered with the cars and engines. Everything seemed fine until the morning before the Talladega race, when Bobby Labonte flashed by at 198.475 mph — too close to NASCAR’s unofficial 200-mph limit.

Series officials gathered every driver and discussed how to slow the cars. After some debate, they reduced the size of the restrictor plate to further limit horsepower.

Drivers were given new restrictor plates, enclosed in a plastic sandwich bag, for the final practice session. Earnhardt held his bag at arm’s length as he walked through the garage.

The race tested the drivers’ skills because NASCAR’s rule changes altered a car’s behavior in ways never seen. Drivers were forced to relearn tactics and dump old habits on the fly.

Passing proved easy. The middle lane, once the slowest, turned into an expressway. Cars on the outside now could draft off cars on the inside.

Earnhardt shined. Car owner Richard Childress once claimed Earnhardt was so good that he could see the air. Many believed Childress’ proclamation. Truth was, Earnhardt didn’t see air. He saw the other cars.

On this day, he raced two-wide, three-wide and even four-wide, calculating when, where and how to make his charge. He led, ran near the front and fell back in the pack. He saw who ran well, saw how cars acted close together and what line cars liked to take. He saw who could push him to the front.

He saved all those details for the split second he’d need them.

The action slowed 21 laps from the finish, when Mark Martin and Bobby Hamilton crashed. As the field followed the pace car , Earnhardt debated strategy with crew chief Kevin Hamlin and Childress.

Earnhardt wanted four tires. Hamlin and Childress said no.

“You give me four tires and I’ll win,” Earnhardt radioed.

Childress feared a four-tire stop would drop Earnhardt too deep in the pack because most cars would change no tires or two and come out of the pits sooner.

Earnhardt persisted. His determined voice swayed Childress. They compromised. Earnhardt would stop, but just for two right-side tires.

Whether it mattered is debatable. Except to Earnhardt. Give him four tires and he drove like Superman. Even two tires infused the man known as the Intimidator with new powers.

Now was Earnhardt’s time to prove he was right.

He restarted 15th. Jeff Gordon led.

Fifteen laps remained.

Earnhardt’s car dangled like a wobbly tight-rope artist over the yellow line that separated the track’s bottom lane from the apron. Five laps remained.

He had to climb up the track before reaching turn 1. If not, he’d crash. Or he would slow, lose his momentum and fall so far back that he’d ruin his chance to win.

Rich Bickle was where Earnhardt needed to go. Rusty Wallace ran above them. It was too late for courtesy. Earnhardt created an opening. They hit. Smoke rose.

Bickle’s left front tire smeared the white No. 3 of Earnhardt’s car in black. Earnhardt’s right rear tire lost its yellow Goodyear lettering when it rubbed Bickle’s car. Bickle slid up the track into Wallace, who climbed the banking.

Earnhardt’s car wiggled, but he recovered and drove by both, settling in behind Gordon. Earnhardt was 16th with four laps left.

Dale Earnhardt, now 15th, saw his chance exiting turn 2 . His son helped.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., a rookie, pulled four car lengths ahead as the field formed two conga lines. Problem was, a group of cars nose-to-tail runs faster than a single car. As the line of cars behind Earnhardt Jr. grew larger in his rear-view mirror, they hit the brakes to avoid running over him. That allowed cars in the middle and outside lanes to race by.

This was Earnhardt’s moment. He steered his Chevrolet into the middle lane and pulled alongside Gordon. Earnhardt rocketed.

He passed Gordon.

Then Joe Nemechek and Matt Kenseth.

Ward Burton followed, then Kenny Wallace and Steve Grissom.

The backstretch banzai charge lasted 14 seconds.

After Earnhardt shot by entering turn 3, Kenny Wallace cut down behind Earnhardt and in front of Nemechek, his teammate. Wallace and Nemechek would never leave Earnhardt.

Moments later, Earnhardt picked off Ricky Rudd in the tri-oval.

Three laps to go. John Andretti led, and Earnhardt was eighth.

But he was closing hard.

As Andretti tried to cut down on Mike Skinner after taking the lead on the frontstretch, Earnhardt plotted .

Andretti couldn’t clear Skinner, who retook the lead. The field stacked up three- and four-wide behind Skinner entering turn1.

Earnhardt climbed to the third lane behind Dale Jarrett. Earnhardt knew he needed to run the middle lane.

General Motors engineers showed him and other drivers computer simulation data beforehand showing the middle as the best. Earnhardt tested that theory all day. Now, only Andretti was in the middle. Earnhardt dived behind him in turn 1. Wallace, Nemechek, Gordon and others followed.

Earnhardt closed on Andretti in turn 4, faking to the outside lane. Andretti blocked, but Earnhardt took his spot anyway. Wallace, focused on Earnhardt’s car a few feet ahead, never noticed Earnhardt’s subtle move. All Wallace saw was Andretti alone at the top of the track.

Earnhardt led the outside line. He was fourth. Two laps to go.

“The Intimidator is scraped and beaten on the right side, but he will not be denied!” ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch said over the screaming engines and fans as the field raced in turn 2.

“Mr. Restrictor Plate knows there are two laps to go! Earnhardt drives to the high side of Bobby Labonte. Wow.”

After Earnhardt passed Labonte for third down the backstretch, he gripped the wheel with his left hand and waved his right hand back and forth.

Hit me, he was telling Kenny Wallace. Hit me hard.

Wallace, inches behind Earnhardt, bumped his friend. The contact shot Earnhardt past Dale Jr. and into second.

Now Earnhardt raced beside Skinner, his teammate, for the lead in turn 3. The crowd nearly drowned out the engines.

Suddenly, Earnhardt Jr. faced a dilemma. He was going for the win, but he had to be careful not to help Skinner pass his dad. How would that look, the son helping someone beat his father? At Talladega? Earnhardt Jr. knew his daddy would cuss him out for such a move.

So as they raced side-by-side about 90 seconds from the finish, Earnhardt Jr. debated his next move. Skinner, preoccupied with Earnhardt on his outside, left Junior an opening underneath.

The young driver went for it, moving under Skinner along the frontstretch. It came as his father lunged ahead on the outside lane for the race’s 49th lead change.

They crossed the start/finish line three abreast. Earnhardt Jr. on the apron. Skinner in the middle. Earnhardt ahead on the outside.

One lap left.

Wallace tried to make a move on Earnhardt at the start/finish line, but Skinner blocked his path in the middle lane. Wallace couldn’t slow and bumped Earnhardt.

Earnhardt flashed forward. Wallace followed with Nemechek behind. They broke away.

Earnhardt weaved down the backstretch. He wanted to break the draft and prevent Wallace and Nemechek from getting a run. Wallace closed in turn 3. He readied to make a move and score his first career Winston Cup victory. He glanced in his mirror.

“Who’s that?” Wallace thought to himself.

He didn’t recognize his teammate. Nemechek normally drove a blue-and-white car, but for this race his car carried a metallic maroon-and-silver paint scheme. Not knowing who was behind him, Wallace hesitated. His chance disappeared.

Spotter Danny Culler’s baritone voice climbed higher as Earnhardt neared the checkered flag. “Clear all around,” Culler said, as the crowd of 140,000 stood . “Three cars single file and then they’re three-by-three behind that.”

Earnhardt headed toward the tri-oval.

“Coming to the checkered,” Culler said. “Watch your mirror. Watch your mirror.”

Wallace could do nothing but follow Earnhardt to the finish line. “You the man!” Culler said as Earnhardt won. “Congratulations, champ!”

Long after the race that night, Kenny Wallace and Dale Earnhardt met in the motorhome lot. They shared celebratory drinks of Sunny Delight and vodka.

Earnhardt knew he couldn’t have won without Wallace behind him those final laps, pushing him to the front. He owed Wallace.

As they drank, Earnhardt placed his arm around Wallace’s neck, tugged his friend closer and asked, “So, what do you want for Christmas?”

Wallace, beaming from the praise Earnhardt gave him earlier in Victory Lane, just said he was thankful Earnhardt had given him his first Busch ride in 1988. They smiled, laughed and enjoyed the night.

About a month after the race, Earnhardt appeared at the Charlotte studio of the ESPN auto racing program, “RPM2Night.” Bill Weber was there.

Weber had interviewed Earnhardt in Victory Lane on live TV that day. Afterward, he grabbed a handful of fake million dollars bills dropped on Earnhardt to celebrate the $1 million bonus he won .

Between segments at the studio, Weber asked Earnhardt to sign those bills so Weber could frame them and give them to staff members. As Earnhardt signed, they talked about that race and the finish. Earnhardt’s blue-green eyes glowed.

“I never thought I could get back to the front,” he said.

Then Earnhardt winked.

Take a drive down the Dale Trail
By: Glenn Bolin, News 14 Carolina
September 26, 2005

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – NASCAR fans can now feel a little closer to one of the greatest drivers of all time.

The Dale Trail – a self-guided tour retracing the life of racing legend Dale Earnhardt – is now officially open in Kannapolis.

The trail begins with a drive down Dale Earnhardt Boulevard where visitors will pass several significant landmarks, including Old Earnhardt Road, where Earnhardt is said to have driven sideways as a teen in his bright yellow 1956 Chevy.

The grave of Dale's father, Ralph Earnhardt, a racing legend in his own right, is also located along the road.

Up on the left, a sharp eye will notice lots of streets bearing the names of cars. It is a section knows as Car Town, and it is where Earnhardt got his start, racing bicycles up and down those very streets.

His mother, Martha, still lives in the area.

In the Cannon Mill area, visitors can drive through Idiots Circle, the spot Dale perfected his left turn while cruising the streets as a kid.

There are always plenty of flash bulbs further up the road where a 9-foot, 900-pound statue of “The Intimidator” greets guests.

“Regretfully, when he did pass away in that horrible accident, we all felt very very badly,” said visitor Joanne Rish. “If they feel as bad about my death as they did about his, I'll be gratified in my death.”

Other highlights include one of Dale's favorite restaurants, and even one of his first Winston Cup championship cars.

But the crown jewel of the trip is just a few miles up North Carolina's Highway 3. Dale Earnhardt incorporated, or DEI, is Mecca for many NASCAR fans.

“Just seeing the building and the flags flying up there puts goose pimples on your arm,” said Mike Mallory of Akron, Ohio.

Many fans say the experience cannot be fully captured in just one trip.

“I'm planning on bringing a couple of my buddies down and making a weekend out of it,” Mallory said. “Once I learn where everything is and see everything, they are all die hard Earnhardt fans, they'll love this.”

There are lots of other things too see on the trail as well, including Dale Earnhardt's early race cars.

Web Journalist: Mike Cartelli

Madame Tussauds in Vegas unveils new NASCAR attraction
Associated Press
August 24, 2005

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The Madame Tussauds of wax statue fame unveiled its newest interactive attraction, called SPEED, on Wednesday at its facility in The Venetian hotel-casino.

The new attraction is dedicated to auto racing and will open with a meticulously recreated $200,000 wax figure of Dale Earnhardt, the legendary Intimidator of NASCAR and the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion.

Adrian Jones, general manager of Madame Tussauds Las Vegas, said, "The reason we chose Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who lost his life in an accident on the final lap of the 43rd Daytona 500 in February 2001, was because he was instrumental in introducing the sport of auto racing to millions and his presence best represents the country's fastest-growing spectator sport."

Jones added that his company's commitment to the sport is long term and there already are plans to update the experience with additional $200,000 wax figures of famous sports and racing legends in the years to come.

The figure of Earnhardt was unveiled in an official driving uniform and situated in a high-energy, winning setting of Victory Lane. Visitors will be able to stand next to the figure.

Safety May Be the Intimidator's Legacy
By Viv Bernstein
The New York Times
May 31, 2003

CONCORD, N.C., May 31 — A statue of Dale Earnhardt was erected in his hometown, Kannapolis, N.C., not long after he died in a crash during the 2001 Daytona 500. A few miles south, there is another significant monument to Earnhardt.

At a cost to Nascar of $10 million, a 61,000-square-foot research and development center opened here in December, complete with a $500,000 computer software system, a staff of engineers and doctors of biomechanics, a $50 million budget over the next 10 years and a mandate to make racing safer.

The center does not bear Earnhardt's name, but perhaps it should. In some ways, he is responsible for many of the major improvements in racing safety in recent years.

On his way to winning seven Winston Cup points championships and building a devoted fan following in the 1980's and 90's, Earnhardt helped spread the gospel of Nascar. From its Southern roots, the sport grew to national prominence, garnering an unprecedented six-year, $2.4 billion television contract that began in 2001.

Earnhardt, with his black suit, black car, dark shades and reputation as the Intimidator, was one of the main reasons for the sport's growth.

"There's no question about his legacy when it comes to what he did for the sport," said Mike Helton, Nascar's president. "The sport will never outgrow that. What he's done for Nascar and the stock car form of motor sports will exist forever. Certainly, that desire to make the sport safer was at an all-time high after we lost Dale. And from that perspective Dale is a contributor to the effort as we know it today."

Even before Earnhardt died, safety concerns had become an issue for Nascar. The series had lost two drivers the year before; Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin died in separate crashes two months apart in 2000. The need was clear. Gary Nelson, the managing director of competition for Nascar, was given the mandate to build a research and development center.

"Gary had virtually a blank check to move forward," Jim Hunter, Nascar's vice president for corporate communications, said.

It was a significant step for Nascar, which often left safety issues to the drivers and the crews. Nelson said he had run Nascar's research projects out of his garage just a few years earlier.

But few safety improvements had been made after Petty and Irwin were killed. Nascar was historically and notoriously slow when it came to tinkering with the sport.

That was until February 2001. In the first major telecast under the new contract, and in the premier race on the Nascar Winston Cup circuit, Earnhardt crashed in the final lap of the Daytona 500. His car slammed into the wall and he suffered a basal skull fracture, dying instantly. Suddenly, Nascar's most visible star was gone. And Nascar stood alone in the glare of the spotlight, with too many questions and not enough answers. Earnhardt died just as Nascar had finally reached the mainstream. Never before had Nascar officials experienced such scrutiny from fans and the national news media.

"Nascar was just getting beaten and beaten, `Why did this happen?' " Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "Everybody was questioning Nascar's credibility. `If you're a prime-time sport, why don't you have these answers?' And so Nascar had to make a step up and really start to look into these things and look into how they could avoid having fatalities in the future, try to give drivers a better chance of surviving in those high-impact crashes."

Jeff Burton, a driver who is one of the vocal leaders on safety issues, said: "That incident was a wake-up call to a lot of people. I don't know if we would have had the building and research center as quick. I think we would have had it. But I don't think it would have been as quick."

The Earnhardt crash accelerated the pace of change within Nascar, and the ensuing investigation was unprecedented for the sport. For the first time, Nascar went outside the family and brought in experts to understand and to learn from the crash.

"After every wreck, after every injury, Nascar officials would look and see if there was anything that they could change that would make it better," Hunter said. "But we never looked at it in what you would call a true scientific fashion that matches today's times and technology. We did not automatically cross the bridge from the way it had always been to the way it should be or can be until Dale Earnhardt."

Much has changed since then. Cars are equipped with crash boxes that collect data, including G-forces, change in speed, impact patterns and angle of impact — in the event of an accident. Drivers are now required to wear head-and-neck restraints. Some drivers now use safer, form-fitted seats made of composite fiber instead of aluminum. Full face shields are recommended, although not required.

Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (Safer) barriers, known as soft walls, have been implemented. The walls, which absorb energy in a crash, are in place in some areas at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Working with the Dr. Dean Sicking of the University of Nebraska at a crash-test facility built on an abandoned runway at the Lincoln, Neb., airport, Nascar continues to test soft-wall technology in hopes of installing it at other tracks.

In the past few months, Nascar's research team has approved an air purification system that will eliminate much of the carbon monoxide that drivers breathe during races.

A side-impact study is about to get under way as well. Side-impact crashes are receiving greater focus after crashes by Kyle Petty and Jerry Nadeau this season. Nadeau was critically injured in a crash at Richmond International Raceway earlier this month. But he is recovering and was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Charlotte earlier this week.

Some believe the head-and-neck restraint might have helped save Nadeau's life. Nascar is now working to understand why he was so seriously injured. And Richmond could be the next to install soft walls, perhaps as early as this season.

Beyond that, there are 30 projects in the works. Among them: Nascar is building the prototype for an entirely new, safer car.

Still, drivers believe there is more to be done.

Earnhardt Jr. said: "I'm glad that Nascar has that building because sooner or later they're going to really get down to the very core reason of where we started to have a turning point that changed the way we were building our cars to where they started increasing the G-forces of these crashes, and where the drivers are taking more of a beating."

In the meantime, Nascar has gone public in declaring its commitment to safety issues as it works to regain the credibility lost in the Earnhardt crash. Officials eagerly invite reporters to tour the research center, reviewing studies and detailing advances.

"The whole incident we went through with Dale and after we lost Dale, and the suspicions, the questions and the topics that flew around during that period of time were not good for the sport," Helton said. "Losing Dale was by far the worst thing we could have had happen. The openness with the R and D center is that effort to explain to people that here's what we are doing."

Those who knew Earnhardt believe Nascar would not have been nearly as aggressive in developing safety equipment had it not been for Earnhardt's death. In part, that was because of Earnhardt.

"Earnhardt thought everything he was doing was safe," Hunter said. "And he was good at safety. He had definite opinions on full face helmets, for example. He didn't like them. He didn't feel like he could drive as well with a full face helmet as he could with an open face helmet. I think we would have had the head and neck restraint. I think he accelerated the pace of progress."

But if that is his lasting impact on the sport, it is not how many around Nascar, including his son, want to remember Earnhardt. "I'm sure he would be very proud to know that a lot of improvements have been made," Earnhardt said. "But I think I want him to be remembered for the races he won, the people that were his fans, how he affected their lives, how he made their Sundays more enjoyable."

Teresa Earnhardt Unveils Highway 3
By News 14 Carolina
March 3, 2003

CONCORD, N.C. -- Fans of legendary stock car driver Dale Earnhardt can pay tribute to him Monday by taking a ride on Highway 3, the number of his Winston Cup car.

Dale's widow, Teresa Earnhardt, unveiled the highway marker Monday at a ceremony in Mooresville, where they renamed North Carolina Highway 136 to Highway 3 in Dale's honor.

Teresa talked about her husband's legacy and what he means to his fans.

"Dale was extraordinarily special, not only to my family and me, but to the millions who make up the NASCAR family," she said. "His citizenship to North Carolina was outstanding. As travels took us around the world, he proudly called North Carolina home."

Teresa Earnhardt went on to say that the new highway sign renamed in his honor represented how the state's residents felt about him.

"Dale represented a true American hero and role model," she said. "This designation is just one more example of what he meant to the residents of North Carolina."

Lawmakers signed a bill last fall officially changing state Highway 136 in Iredell and Cabarrus counties, to North Carolina Highway 3, in honor of the man known as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers.

Hometown Honors Earnhardt With Statue
Bronze memorial is latest of several tributes to NASCAR driver
By Ronnie Glassberg, Staff Writer
The Charlotte Observer
October 15, 2002

KANNAPOLIS - Just a mile and a half from the home where Dale Earnhardt grew up, the city Monday unveiled a 9-foot, 900-pound bronze statue of the racing legend.

Three thousand to four thousand people attended the ceremony for the statue, erected at Dale Earnhardt Plaza off South Main Street between West A and West B streets in the city's Cannon Village shopping area.

In the memorial, Earnhardt sports his signature grin and has his arms crossed.

He's dressed in Wrangler blue jeans, cowboy boots and a short-sleeved shirt with a button-down collar.

His shirt is creased, his face shows wrinkles, and his sunglasses are in his shirt pocket.

"It's unreal. It's so lifelike," said Concord resident Lester Watts, who has known Earnhardt's mother for 40 years.

Sculptor Clyde Ross Morgan of Sedona, Ariz., said he spent many hours with Earnhardt family members in designing the statue.

"Creating a larger-than-life statue of someone that is already larger than life has to be one of the most daunting challenges I have ever faced," he said.

Earnhardt died on the last lap of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2001.

Members of the Earnhardt family, including his widow, Teresa, and son Dale Jr., uncovered the statue Monday.

"We are very pleased that the statue personifies the Dale Earnhardt we all knew on a daily basis," Teresa Earnhardt said.

After the ceremony, visitors -- many clad in No. 3 jackets or T-shirts -- lined up to snap pictures with the statue.

They came from far away as England and Nova Scotia, Canada, according to a city tally, and from most U.S. states.

John and Debbi Crow of Princeton, Minn., who attended the weekend races at Lowe's Motor Speedway, said they were impressed.

"I think it's gorgeous," said Debbi Crow.

David Murdock, a Los Angeles business executive who owns Cannon Village, donated the $200,000 for the statue, and donations helped pay for the plaza.

The statue is among many recent Kannapolis tributes to The Intimidator.

Last month, the city renamed two roads that lead motorists along "Dale Earnhardt Boulevard," adding three miles to the existing 0.9-mile stretch. The state has approved renaming N.C. highway 136, which runs through Kannapolis, as N.C. 3, in honor of Earnhardt's car number.

And last week, motorsports artist Sam Bass unveiled four mural reproductions at the Dale Earnhardt Tribute Center in the nearby Cannon Village Visitor Center.

February 8, 2002

Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - On Thursday at the Daytona International Speedway, Teresa Earnhardt dropped a checkered-flagged curtain to reveal a nine-foot tall, 1,200-pound bronze statue to her late husband, Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in last year's Daytona 500.

"Dale Earnhardt’s legendary performances here at Daytona inspired people that he never even met," said Teresa. "People looked up to Dale, probably because of his own beliefs and values."

The site of the statue is surrounded by a tri-oval representing the frontstretch of Daytona. Imbedded in the concrete are seven markers celebrating Earnhardt’s seven Winston Cup championships. At the end of the concrete is another marker, paying tribute to his 1998 Daytona 500 win.

Members of the Earnhardt family and NASCAR officials braved rain to attend the ceremony. "I’m sure if Dale was here today, he’d say it was better that it was raining today than on race day," said Bill France, CEO and chairman of NASCAR.

"I hope that everyone who looks up at this statue is reminded that victory comes in more ways than one and that this Dale continues to inspire people to believe in themselves and remember that you get what you give," said Teresa.

Earnhardt Killed In Daytona 500 Crash
February 19, 2001

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt, the greatest stock car star of his era, was killed in a crash on the last turn of the last lap of Sunday's Daytona 500 as he tried to protect Michael Waltrip's victory.

The 49-year-old driver had to be cut from his battered car and was taken to Halifax Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead of head injuries.

"He had what I felt were life-ending type injuries at the time of impact and nothing could be done for him," said Dr. Steve Bohannon, an emergency physician at the hospital who also works for Daytona International Speedway.

The accident happened a half-mile from the finish of the NASCAR season-opener as Earnhardt's newest driver, Waltrip, and son Dale Earnhardt Jr. were in front racing toward what should have been the most triumphant moment in the brief history of Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Earnhardt, a master of superspeedway racing, was fighting for third place, leading a tightly bunched five-car pack heading through the final turn. The back left corner of his famed black No. 3 Chevrolet was bumped by Sterling Marlin.

Earnhardt's car fishtailed slightly and briefly slid to its left, down toward the infield, before suddenly swinging back to the right and cutting across traffic at a sharp angle. He clipped Ken Schrader, whose yellow Pontiac carried both cars hard into the concrete wall headfirst at about 180 mph.

With Earnhardt's car already smoking and shredding at the front, Schrader's car stayed lodged into the passenger's side of the Chevrolet, forming a T. The cars careened again off the wall, plowing into the final turn and sliding to a stop on the infield grass.

"I guess someone got into Dale because Dale got into me and then we went up," Schrader said. "We hit pretty hard and Dale hit harder."

The scene was grim as safety workers removed Earnhardt from the car, and the accident removed all the luster from a glittering race that kept the record crowd of 195,000 spectators on their feet most of the afternoon.

Many of them were well on their way home when NASCAR president Mike Helton made the announcement, about 90 minutes after the race ended.

"This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements I have ever personally had to make. We've lost Dale Earnhardt," Helton said.

Fans in and around the sprawling speedway wept after hearing the news. The track lowered its huge American flag in the infield to half-staff after the race.

Earnhardt was a seven-time Winston Cup champion, and his 76 victories were the most among active drivers. He continued to race for longtime friend and boss Richard Childress while starting his own team, which expanded to three cars with the addition of Waltrip this year. His other drivers were Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park.

The death of Earnhardt left NASCAR reeling in the wake of a 2000 season in which three of its young stars were killed in separate accidents.

Adam Petty, the fourth generation of stock car racing's most famous family, and Kenny Irwin died in crashes two months apart at New Hampshire International Speedway and Tony Roper was killed later in the year in a crash during a truck race at Texas Motor Speedway. All three died of the same type of head injuries that apparently killed Earnhardt.

Following those deaths, safety had become a front-burner issue for the sport, with a debate over possible rules changes and the use of new safety equipment.

Earnhardt wore an open-faced helmet and shunned some of NASCAR's other basic safety innovations. He didn't like the restrictor plates NASCAR used to slow speeds at its fastest tracks, and refused to wear a Head And Neck Safety (HANS) brace that recently has been touted as a way to help prevent serious head injuries.

Bohannon said Earnhardt probably died of head injuries, particularly to the base of the skull. They were the same type of injuries that killed the three drivers last year.

"I know the full-face helmet wouldn't have made a difference," Bohannon said. "I don't know if the HANS device would have helped. I suspect not."

The crash, however, didn't look that serious at first. Most of the fans' attention at the time was on the fight for the checkered flag between Waltrip and Earnhardt Jr.

With two and three-wide racing and constantly changing positions, there was a far more dangerous-looking wreck 25 laps earlier. The 19-car accident sent Tony Stewart's Pontiac flying through the air and over the roof of another car. Stewart also was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Earnhardt's death completely overshadowed the victory by Waltrip, his first in 15 years and 463 races on Winston Cup circuit.

At first, Waltrip, the younger brother of retired three-time champion Darrell Waltrip, was jubilant, scrambling from his car in Victory Lane and shouting in a raspy voice: "This is the Daytona 500, and I won it! I won the Daytona 500! I can't believe it!"

But he was somber as it became apparent that his new boss was badly injured.

"The only reason I won this race is Dale Earnhardt," Waltrip said.

Waltrip took the lead 16 laps from the end of the 200-lap race at Daytona International Speedway and stayed in front, with Earnhardt Jr. and the elder Earnhardt protecting his flank.

"I thought it might be too bold or bragging to say we could win it in our first race as a team," Waltrip said. "But I thought we could.

"I could never have won without Dale Jr.," he added. "I could never have won without the belief of Dale Sr."

Thanks to the aerodynamic package that NASCAR came up with to promote better racing after last year's yawner at Daytona, the 43rd version of the stock car Super Bowl produced 49 lead changes among 14 drivers. Last year, there were just nine lead changes and virtually no real racing.

The first race with the new superspeedway aero package, last October at Talladega Superspeedway, was just as breathtaking. It had 49 lead changes and race-long action, but the drivers somehow avoided what seemed inevitable - a big crash.

Not this time.

On lap 174, Stewart went flying and cars were crashing and spinning all over the back straightaway. When it was over, eight of last year's top 10 in the final points, including champion Bobby Labonte and three-time and defending Daytona winner Dale Jarrett, were knocked out of the race or had severe car damage.

"There was no getting through it. It was like a wall of cars," said Jeff Gordon, a two-time Daytona winner.

Not everyone was happy with the tight, tense racing.

"Not a lot of fun," said Jarrett, whose Ford never got into contention. "It just wasn't a good day. That's no fun for me at all. I mean, you're totally at the mercy of someone else when you get three-wide. That's not racing."

Rusty Wallace, also involved in the big crash, finished the race with a jagged piece of sheet metal sticking from the side of his car. He wound up third, followed by Ricky Rudd and pole-winner Bill Elliott in the highest finishing Dodge.

This was the official return of the automaker to NASCAR's top series after a 16-year absence. It appeared one of the new Dodge Intrepids might win the race with Ward Burton and Marlin dominating at times.

Burton's race ended with the car on a flatbed truck after the big wreck on lap 174, while a punctured tire nearly ended Marlin's chances. The multicar crash actually helped Marlin catch the leaders and move back into contention, but he faded at the end and wound up giving new NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi a seventh-place finish.

Dale Earnhardt Statistics

AGE: 49, Born April 29, 1951
BIRTHPLACE: Kannapolis, N.C.
RESIDENCE: Mooresville, N.C.

DIED: Killed Sunday on the last turn of the last lap of the Daytona 500 in a crash involving cars driven by Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader.

DRIVING CAREER: Known as The Intimidator for his aggressive driving style, Earnhardt won seven NASCAR Winston Cup titles to tie Richard Petty's record. Won 76 races, including the 1998 Daytona 500. Was the 1979 Rookie of the Year, and won the National Motorsport Press Association's Driver of the Year award four times and twice was selected the American Driver of the Year.

FAMILY: Wife, Teresa; four children, Dale Jr., Kerry, Kelly, Taylor. Earnhardt's father, Ralph, was one of the pioneers of NASCAR and a star in its Sportsman division in the 1950s. Dale Jr. is a top Winston Cup driver.

Earnhardt Career Highlights (AP)

1975 - Made stock car racing debut on May 25, finishing 22nd in the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

1979 - Earned first victory on April 1 at Bristol, Tenn.; Won Rookie of the Year Award.

1980 - Won first Winston Cup Championship, becoming only driver to win Rookie of the Year and season championship back-to-back.

1986 - Won five races to take second Winston Cup Championship.

1987 - Won 11 races for third Winston Cup Championship, finishing in top five 21 times in 29 races.

1990 - Won nine times to take fourth Winston Cup Championship, earning a then-record $3,083,056.

1991 - Won four races for fifth Winston Cup Championship.

1993 - Won six races to earn sixth Winston Cup Championship.

1994 - Won seventh Winston Cup Championship, tying Richard Petty for most career titles. Topped $3-million mark in earnings for third time in five years.

1996 - Became third driver to start 500 consecutive Winston Cup races.

1997 - Became first driver to reach $30 million in American Motor Sports winnings and first race car driver to appear on box of Wheaties Cereal.

1998 - Won first Daytona 500 in 20th career start, breaking a 59-race winless streak overall. Finished eighth in season standings, his 18th top 10 finish in 20 years.

1999 - Won 10th consecutive Twin 125 qualifying race at Daytona.

2000 - Won Winston 500 on Oct. 15 at Talladega Superspeedway for final career victory.

Career Pole Positions: 22.

Career top 5 finishes: 268.

Career top 10 finishes: 404.

Winston Cup Championships: 7 (1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994).

IROC Championships: 3 (1990, 1995, 1999).

American Driver of the Year: 2 (1987, 1994).

Won record nine races at Talladega Superspeedway.

Owns record 34 victories in all forms of racing at Daytona Speedway.

Earnhardt Quotes

(AP) - Reaction to Dale Earnhardt's death Sunday in a crash on the last turn of the last lap of the Daytona 500:

"My heart is hurting right now. I would rather be any place right this moment than here. It's so painful."
-- race winner Michael Waltrip at his press conference
Waltrip drove a car owned by Earnhardt.

"This is understandably the hardest announcement I've ever had to make. We've lost Dale Earnhardt."
-- NASCAR president Mike Helton.

"NASCAR has lost its greatest driver ever, and I personally have lost a great friend."
-- NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr.

"No matter where it happens or how it happens or even how prepared you think you might be for it, losing somebody close to you hurts. My heart just breaks for Teresa and the family."
-- driver Kyle Petty. Petty's son, Adam, was killed last year in a crash during a Busch series practice session in New Hampshire.

"Dale Earnhardt was the greatest race car driver that ever lived. He could do things with a race car that no one else could." You never think anyone will get killed, but he was the last one you'd think that would happen to.

"He had a tremendous impact on NASCAR racing. He's done so much to help the sport get where it is today. He took the sport to new places. It's going to hard for anyone else to take it there. He leaves a big, big void here that will be very hard to fill."
-- Ned Jarrett, broadcaster, former driver and father of driver Dale Jarrett

"I don't know what to say. This is incredible, just incredible. I think everybody is just in shock right now. I didn't see much of what happened. After the race was over, I heard things didn't look very good but, man, Earnhardt. You figure he'll bounce right back. Your first thought is, hey, he'll probably come back next week at Rockingham and beat us all."
-- driver Jeremy Mayfield

"It's just the way this sport is. That's the chances you take. It's unfortunate it happened to him. It just don't seem right. It's hard to believe. You don't think things like that will happen to drivers of his caliber.

"We're going to have to take a look at some of the safety issues. My driver tested the HANS (Head And Neck Safety) device over the summer and he will not get in the car without it now. If Dale had that on, we'd probably be looking at a different situation."
-- Todd Parrott, Dale Jarrett's crew chief

"I feel like somebody kicked me in the chest. I'm stunned. And I'm really sad. That's about all I can say."
-- driver John Andretti

"Like so many people around the world, I became a NASCAR fan because I became a Dale Earnhardt fan. Dale was someone I was proud to have my son look up to. We all have our memories we will cherish, memories of excitement, competitiveness and most of all memories of a great man. On behalf of the people of Alabama, I extend my thoughts and prayers to his family and friends."
-- Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman

"It's always tragic, but this is our main guy. Today when they introduced him, he got the biggest applause there. He's the man, he is NASCAR Winston Cup racing. We haven't had something like this happen. We've got a lot of work to do at the track in the next three weeks (for the March 11 Cracker Barrel 400), but I don't feel like doing anything. I'm just numb. I've lost a great friend."
--Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway

"Like many others, we were fans of Dale Earnhardt -- certainly the driver, but especially the man. In spite of our intense rivalry, Dale Earnhardt has been a great friend to us and to all who have helped to make this sport great. Dale Earnhardt transcended NASCAR. His loss will have an effect on racing and its fans worldwide."
--Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology

Mark Martin's Reaction To Dale Earnhardt's Passing:

Mark Martin, Winston Cup Series No. 6 Viagra (sildenafil citrate) Ford Taurus:

"I will tell you that some of the fiercest and most successful drivers are also the most aggravating on the track. Dale was incredibly tenacious; he drove me to rise to his level. He made me want to be the best, because he made me want to beat him. I have never in all of my experience raced against anyone with as much desire to win as he had, and that's saying a lot, because I've raced against them all. He was so tenacious, but he was so different from that away from the track. I was really fortunate to know that side of him, because not everyone did, but there was a softer side to Dale that most people I know didn't know he had, but it was there.

"It's just so tragic. He was so much to so many. He's left a giant, dark, black hole behind him. I really don't know what to say. There are so many decisions, so much grief. He will be missed by millions.

"I remember in 1990 or '91 when we were both racing in IROC [International Race of Champions] that right after the race in Daytona we flew up to Cleveland for the race and then back down to Charlotte. Well, I was living in Greensboro at the time and I had no way home at like 11pm, so Dale drove me all the way up there and then back to Lake Norman, just to shoot the breeze. I just couldn't understand that; he must have gotten home after 3 am or something, and to this day, I still don't understand, but he was just that way. Different, and special."

President Calls Earnhardt's Widow To Express Condolences

WACO, Texas (AP) - President Bush called the widow of Dale Earnhardt on Sunday night to express his condolences after the race car driver was killed in a crash at the Daytona 500. Bush spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the president's "prayers are with the Earnhardt family and the NASCAR community." Bush has attended NASCAR events and considered Earnhardt and his wife, Teresa, to be friends. In July, Bush visited Daytona Beach to serve as grand marshal of the Pepsi 400 and shook hands with NASCAR fans, racing crews and drivers. After greeting fans during the July visit, Bush sat in on the pre-race driver's meeting, taking a seat in the front row next to Earnhardt. Bush then watched the race in the private box of NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr.

Fans Mourn Earnhardt In His Hometown

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (AP) - All was dark and still on two-lane Dale Earnhardt Road.

The car racing star's hometown was quiet Sunday night, hours after he was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Instead, fans who wanted to mourn Dale Earnhardt were 10 minutes away at his shop in rural Mooresville.

"If you are an Earnhardt fan, you had to come," said a crying Susan Johnson of Kannapolis.

"He was a humanitarian, he gave a lot to the people of Kannapolis. There's a road named after him. He was our local boy done good."

About 200 fans already had gathered at the large shop that serves as home to DEI Inc.'s three Winston Cup cars - Daytona champion Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park.

Cars lined the two-lane highway leading up to the garage, where three flags - the United States, North Carolina and DEI's hung at half-staff.

Police guarded the entrances, but that didn't stop fans wearing their black No. 3 hats from lighting candles and placing flowers as they embraced each other at the makeshift memorial.

A white cardboard sign with letters in black - Intimidator black - hung on the fence and read "In memory of my only hero."

Alec Mantz of Mooresville came with a group of people who had to hold each other up because they were so overcome with grief. Mantz said he met Earnhardt in 1980 and has been a fan ever since.

"He had has his ways, but he was best damn race car driver ever and that's how I'm going to remember him," he said. "To us here in Mooresville, he was put on this earth to race and that's what he did best."

Mooresville's Jim Donaldson, 21, came to the shop with the two friends. All three attended school with Dale Earnhardt Jr., they said.

"Earnhardt was Mooresville," Donaldson said as he removed his Earnhardt cap and rubbed his face in grief. "This is a tight-knit community, so even if you hated the Earnhardts, this is devastating. It was just a terrible tragedy."

At the Concord Regional Airport, 11-year-old Bobby Klimas bounced around the waiting room in his black Earnhardt jacket.

Klimas traditionally goes to the airport with his father after races so he can get a glimpse of his heroes when they return from the races. His father didn't have the heart to tell him that Earnhardt, his favorite driver, was dead.

"He would go bonkers," Bob Klimas said. "My wife and I decided we'd wait until we got home to tell him. He'll be crushed, absolutely crushed."

As a result, the boy was the only person at the airport in good spirits. As the race team stepped off their planes, family members waited inside in tears.

"It's just real somber, real sad," said a woman working the desk at the private airport who didn't want to be identified. "Normally the race teams come in and it's like 'Woo-hoo,' but this time everyone is ready to go. It seems like a shock to them all."

Todd Parrott, crew chief for Dale Jarrett, looked stunned as he got off his plane and walked to his car.

"It's just the way this sport is - it's a chance you are taking every time you get in the car," Parrott said. "Unfortunately it happened to him and it just don't seem right. It's hard to believe because you don't think things like that happen to drivers like him."

Festive Daytona Scene Turns Somber As Tragic News Spreads

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Inside the museum next to the track where Dale Earnhardt died, roses started piling up on top of a black Monte Carlo pace car that looks hauntingly like The Intimidator's.

In restaurants across the street, patrons left suddenly when they heard the news.

The city of Daytona Beach, normally home to a rowdy, drunken Mardi Gras scene after the Daytona 500, fell into mourning Sunday night after hearing one of auto racing's greats had been killed in a crash on the final lap.

"I can't stop crying," said Patty Miesel, a race fan from Pittsburgh. "I've been crying ever since I heard the news. We love all of the NASCAR drivers, but Earnhardt had a special place in our heart."

She and her husband went to a souvenir shop after they heard the news and had a special T-shirt made. It has a big No. 3 on it and the words, "Winners come and go, but legends live forever."

Colleagues of The Intimidator, as Earnhardt was known far and wide were equally shocked.

"No matter where it happens or how it happens or even how prepared you think you might be for it, losing somebody close to you hurts," said Kyle Petty, whose son Adam died last year in a wreck. "My heart just breaks for the family."

Petty's teammate, John Andretti, added: "I feel like somebody kicked me in the chest. I'm stunned. And I'm really sad. That's about all I can say."

Race fan Ken Satherfield of South Carolina fought the traffic and made his way 30 miles up Interstate 95. When he heard the news, he turned back to join a troupe of fans for a vigil near Daytona International Speedway.

"We were really affected by this," Satherfield said. "We were very big Earnhardt fans."

Flags at the track and throughout the city were lowered to half-staff, as disbelief faded into teary-eyed acceptance.

"You never think anyone will get killed, but he was the last one you'd think that would happen to," said former NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett, wiping away tears.

He wasn't the only one who had trouble believing it had happened.

"After the race was over, I heard things didn't look very good," driver Jeremy Mayfield said. "But, man, Earnhardt? You figure he'll bounce right back. Your first thought is, "Hey, he'll probably come back next week at Rockingham and beat us all."

Race fans Philip and Nancy Geraci of Massachusetts also turned back toward the speedway when they heard the news. Making their way back to the track to reminisce, they saw Earnhardt's trailer move down International Speedway Boulevard, with a police escort.

"It seemed like a funeral procession," Nancy Geraci said.

Reid Pelletier of Danbury, Conn., had just finished dinner when the news spread across the restaurant. People started crying. Some simply stopped eating and walked out.

Pelletier left and started driving toward the track. He was in his car and didn't plan to get out for a while.

"I'm emotionally shaken and in shock," he said. "I don't want to go to sleep now."

Left to Right:

Dale Jr.

Summary Of Earnhardt Crash Report - August 21, 2001

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