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Ralph Dale Earnhardt Sr.
April 29, 1951 - February 18, 2001


 

Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was an outstanding race car driver who spent most of his career driving on the NASCAR circuit. In 1975, Dale began his racing career competing in the World 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he finished in 22nd place.

In 1979, Earnhardt,  on one race at Bristol  captured four poles, had 11 Top 5 finishes, 17 Top 10 finishes, and finished 7th in the final points standings.

In 1980, Earnhardt had wins at Atlanta, Bristol, Nashville, Martinsville, and Charlotte, earning him his first Winston Cup championship. Earnhardt is the only driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to win Rookie of the Year honors, and the following season win the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship. In 1982, Earnhardt join the Richard Childress Racing Team, where he finished 7th in the point standings. In 1982 and 1983, Dale was part of the Bud Moore racing team and after the 1983 season, he rejoined the Richard Childress Racing Team.

During the 1984 and 1985 seasons, Earnhardt won six times, including victories at Talladega, Atlanta, Richmond, Martinsville, and two times at Bristol. In 1984 and 1985, Dale finished in fourth and eighth place, respectively, in the point standings. In 1986, Earnhardt won his 2nd career Winston Cup Championship, and in 1987 he successfully defended his championship by beating Bill Elliott by 489 points in the standing winning his 3rd Winston Cup Championship. In 1988, Dale Earnhardt earned the nickname "The Man in Black," and finished third overall in the point standing. In 1989, Dale finished second behind Rusty Wallace in the point standings. In one of the last races at North Wilkesboro, Earnhardt spun out costing him the 1989 championship.

In 1990, Dale started the season off with a bad break in the 500 as he was leading with several laps to go only to run over some metal slicing his tires. He finished 5th in the race; however, Earnhardt managed to regain his momentum winning nine races and claiming his 4th Winston Cup Championship. In 1991, Earnhardt successfully defending his championship by winning his 5th Winston Cup beating out Ricky Rudd by 195 points in the final standings.  In 1992, Earnhardt had one of his worst years winning only one race,  the Coca-Cola 600, finishing 12th in the point standings for the second time in his career. In 1993, Earnhardt was back on-track with six victories including wins in the Coca-Cola 600, The Winston at Charlotte, and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Ear. Dale earned his 6th Winston Cup Championship beating out Rusty Wallace by 80 points in the final point standings.

In 1994, Dale earned his 7th Winston Cup Championship and tying Richard Petty for the most Winston Cup Championships earned by a driver. He easily beat Mark Martin out for the championship by 400 points in the final point standings. In 1995, Earnhardt finished second in the point standings failing to earn his 8th championship; however, it was symbolic that Jeff Gordon won his 1st Winston Cup Championship by beating Earnhardt by just 34 points.

In 1996, Earnhardt was looking at his 8th Winston Cup Championship going into the DieHard 500; however, a serious on track accident most likely cost Earnhardt the title. Ernie Irvan lost control of his car igniting a frightening crash that saw Earnhardt's car hit the tri-oval wall nearly head-on at almost 200 miles per hour. After hitting the wall, Earnhardt's car flipped and slid across the track, in front o

 of a similar crash. Although video at the time would make viewers believe there was a fatal incident, Earnhardt miraculously climbed out and waved to the crowd. He refused to be loaded onto a stretcher despite having a broken collarbone, sternum, and shoulder blade. He managed to 4th in the final point standing.

In 1997, Earnhardt was winless and once again suffered two serious accidents in the Daytona 500, where he was involved in a late crash which sent his car upside down on the backstretch; and in the Mountain Dew Southern 500, when he blacked out causing him to hit the wall.

In 1998, after 20 years, Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500, however, he struggled to gain ground where he finished 8th in the final point standings. In 1999, Earnhardt finished 7th in the final point standing and in 2000, he managed to finish in 2nd in the final point standings.

On February 18 2001, during the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt was killed after being involved in an accident while heading into Turn 3 on the last lap. Earnhardt was racing three wide with Marlin to his left and Schrader to his right. In the corner, Earnhardt's left rear fender made slight contact with Marlin's front bumper. Earnhardt's car began to slide off of the track near the steep banking onto the flat apron; however, his car then turned sharply up the track toward the outside retaining wall where it collided with the car driven by Ken Schrader. The impact caused Schrader's car to hit Earnhardt's car just behind the passenger door, causing both cars to run nose-first into the wall. Earnhardt's car hit at a critical angle at nearly 150 miles per hour. The right-rear wheel assembly broke off the car on impact. The hood pins severed and the hood flapped open, slamming against the windshield as the car slid slowly down the track. Although, the crashed looked relatively minor, in reality,  the crash was devastating costing Dale Earnhardt his life. Dale Earnhardt was taken to Halifax Medical Center where he died shortly after arrival.

Following the race and after several investigations, the cause of Dale Earnhardt's death was ruled an accident.  Richard Childress had put a moratorium on using Dale Earnhardt's "3" on the side of his racing cars while also stating that the team would never race a black car sponsored by GM Goodrich. The current racing car which is used by the team Dale Earnhardt drove for now resembles a reverse color scheme with a white body and black numbering and stripes at the bottom. The team number is now "29."

The official cause of death on the autopsy report is listed ask "Blunt Force Injuries to the Head" caused by the fatal crash. Dale Earnhardt is interred in a memorial on his farm located in Mooresville, North Carolina.

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