DAYTONA, Fla. (Gray News) - One of NASCAR’s greatest drivers lost his life on the final lap of the Daytona 500 19 years ago.
Dale Earnhardt was involved in a serious crash in NASCAR’s biggest race in 2001. He was running third behind race-winner Michael Waltrip and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he was involved in the turn four crash.
Many were reminded of Earnhardt’s death Monday night when Ryan Newman was involved in a serious crash in the final lap of the 2020 running of the Great American Race. Newman is expected to survive his injuries, but race fans nervously awaited his condition after he was rushed to the hospital.
NASCAR would implement more safety features in the aftermath of Earnhardt’s death, including the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, which helps reduce the severity of impacts in high speed crashes against the wall. NASCAR drivers would soon be required to wear a HANS (Head and Neck Support) device. A new car design several years later made the vehicles more resilient in crashes.
Known as “The Intimidator,” Earnhardt became a fan favorite during his successful career in the black No. 3 Chevrolet. He won seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, and his victory in the 1998 Daytona 500 is considered one of the more memorable moments in NASCAR history. Earnhardt won a total of 76 NASCAR Cup Series races in his career.
Earnhardt was part of the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.