By Motorsport.com staff DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt, 49, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, was fatally injured Sunday in a multi-car accident on the final lap of the 43rd Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The ...
By Motorsport.com staff
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt, 49, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, was fatally injured Sunday in a multi-car accident on the final lap of the 43rd Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
The announcement was made at 7 p.m. ET by NASCAR President Mike Helton.
"NASCAR has lost its greatest driver," said NASCAR Chairman of the Board Bill France, who himself is recovering from life threatening illnesses, "and I personally have lost a great friend."
Dr. Steve Bohannon, emergency trauma surgeon who was on one of the ambulances that responded, said, "My speculation would be head injuries, basically to the base of the skull." Other reports indicate massive chest injuries were the cause of death.
Earnhardt, who won the 1998 Daytona 500, was unconscious when he was cut from his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet after the accident between Turns 3 and 4 of the 2.5-mile speedway as a tangled pack of cars raced to the checkered flag. He was immediately transported to Halifax, less than one-mile from the speedway.
Earnhardt was pronounced dead while his driver, Michael Waltrip, was being interviewed in the Daytona press box after his first career victory in 463 starts.
While holding back Sterling Marlin, Earnhardt's No. 3 chevrolet went out of control between turns 3 and 4. Ken Schrader's car was pinned against the outside wall.
"I don't know what happened -- all of a sudden we were all crashing," said Schrader, who was unhurt in the accident. "I guess someone got into Dale because Dale got into me and then we went up. We hit pretty hard and Dale hit harder."
Schrader tried to visit Earnhardt's car after the accident ended, but quickly left the area.
"I didn't get to talk to Dale," Schrader said of his escape. "I went over there and then they (safety workers) got there real quick, so I got the hell out of the way. I'm fine. I'm fine -- I'm just thinking about Dale and those guys."
"The only reason why I won this race was Dale Earnhardt," said Waltrip, who was unaware of the news while he was being interviewed. "I wondered why he wasn't in Victory Lane until I found out he was hurt."
Earnhardt won 34 times at Daytona, his last coming n the 2001 International Race of Champions opening round