A day of triumph and tragedy for DEI

A Day Of Triumph And Tragedy For DEI By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com Dale Earnhardt Incorporated driver Michael Waltrip won the Daytona 500. The 37-year driver holds the record for the most consecutive starts (462), without finding ...

A Day Of Triumph And Tragedy For DEI

By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com

Dale Earnhardt Incorporated driver Michael Waltrip won the Daytona 500. The 37-year driver holds the record for the most consecutive starts (462), without finding victory lane. Today, as he accomplished what certainly will be a career defining achievement, the moment was overshadowed by the absence of his team owner during the celebration.

Involved in a last lap incident with Ken Schrader, Dale Earnhardt was being transported to Halifax Medical Center after being cut unconscious from his car. Michael's teammate, Dale Jr, left the track to be with his father.

Shortly before 7pm Eastern Standard Time the racing world was shocked to learn that Dale Earnhardt died from his injuries. "NASCAR has lost its greatest driver, and I personally have lost a friend" (Bill France Jr)

The loss to the racing community is beyond description.

The 49 year old, seven-time champion broke into Winston Cup in 1975, competing in a total of 9 events between 1975 and 1978, and joining the series full time in 1979.

Racing for various different car owners, Dale first worked for Richard Childress in 1981, and returned in 1984 for what became a legendary partnership.

During the next 16 years the pairing of owner and driver would combine for an unprecedented 7 championships, 65 wins (76 career total, 9 wins with other owners), and a fan base that helped promote NASCAR to one of the greatest sports in the world.

Daytona was a track that Dale was the undisputed king. He held the distinction of being the winningest driver at the famed 2.5-mile track.

Among his records, in 1999, he won his 10th consecutive 125 qualifiers, 1995 he won his 6th bud shootout, and most memorable, in 1998, during the kickoff of NASCAR's fiftieth anniversary, the Intimidator, In his 20th Daytona 500 start, brought his #3 Chevy to victory lane, winning the great American Race.

The most memorable moment of that event was after his victory lap, every crew member from every team lined pit road to congratulate and celebrate with the living legend.

Dale accomplished everything and more in NASCAR. He defined the sport for the modern era. From rookie of the year in 1979, to finishing 2nd in the 2000 Championship. The word in the garage area last season was " the man in black is back", and he was certainly favored to be the man to beat in 2001.

Earnhardt accomplishments went well beyond the racetrack.

Although not the focus of a highlight films, Earnhardt was a highly successful businessman, and can be credited with the phenomena of marketing that NASCAR has become. His ability to merchandise his likeness, and souvenirs turned into an industry that no one had previously envisioned.

He transformed that industry into a successful organization that (DEI) fielded three cars in these years 500.

At the time of the crash, Dale was running third, more than likely his last views were watching two DEI cars taking first and second at the track he loved.

Born in a racing family, Dale followed the footsteps of his father Ralph, and went for glory on the track, much in the tradition of the Petty family, the sport became the family business, highlighted last August at Michigan International Speedway, as Dale started the race with sons Dale Jr, and Kerry in the field.

Nicknamed the Intimidator, for his no nonsense driving style, he was more than a competitor. Dale held a place of respect and leadership among other drivers and teams that will not be Never replaced.

Individuals, who did not follow the sport, knew who Dale Earnhardt was.

He did for Auto Racing, what Babe Ruth did for baseball, and Michael Jordan did for Basketball. His achievements far exceed what ever the records will reflect.

Dale is survived by his wife Teresa, and children Kerry, Kelly, Dale Jr, and Taylor.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Michael Waltrip , Ken Schrader
Teams Dale Earnhardt Incorporated