The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death
On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.
As he threw his final block, Earnhardt’s left-rear corner tagged Sterling Marlin’s right-front fender, getting the RCR Chevy loose. Earnhardt battled for control, his car clipping the apron, unsettling it still further, and so it began to spin clockwise, moving up the track and across the bows of the closely-following Rusty Wallace and Ken Schrader. His right-rear corner was struck by Schrader’s left-front, which crucially accentuated the angle of Earnhardt’s car (between 53-55-degrees in relation to the wall) before it nosed hard into the unprotected concrete.
Dale Earnhardt crash
Photo by: F. Peirce Williams / Motorsport Images
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Dale Earnhardt: How he died and what NASCAR did next