Dale Earnhardt Sr. - Death At Daytona
Death at Daytona
In nearly two decades of Winston Cup competition, including seven championship seasons, Earnhardt met his nemesis every year at Florida's Daytona Speed-way. With eighteen career losses on record at Daytona Beach, his determination to win the 500-mile classic approached fanaticism. In 1997 he flipped his car but managed to walk away from the crash. He headed for a waiting ambulance as his head cleared, suddenly realizing that all four wheels and tires on his car remained intact. He beat the wrecker crew back to his car, slid into the cab, and finished the race—albeit in thirty-first place.
One year later, in 1998, Earnhardt took the theretofore elusive first prize at Daytona. It was a hard-earned win. Three years passed again, until 2001 when Earnhardt lost the race and his life in one final instant. The drive that day had progressed with Earnhardt leading in laps number 27 through 31. He was back in front on the eighty-third and eighty-fourth laps. Some time later a 19-car pile up and crash on lap number 174 caused a ruckus but little injury. Flamboyantly, Earnhardt flipped an obscene gesture with his finger to Kurt Bursch when they pinged bumpers during the course.
The number 3 sedan with its cocksure driver regained the lead in lap number 183. In the final lap Earnhardt approached the finish on a wild drive. He was in third place and blocking for two members of his team who held the lead. The trio was poised for a memorable three-way win, but the victory stalled with only seconds left to the finish. Earnhardt's car, clipped from behind, went out of control and careened into a car driven by Kenny Schrader. Both cars left the track and nosed into the wall on the final turn of the race. Schrader emerged from his car without help while Earnhardt remained motionless in the wreck. Earnhardt was pronounced dead at 5:16 p.m. at the Halifax Medical Center, from a basal skull fracture.
Earnhardt over the years had matured into a devoted family man. After the 1980 Winston Cup season, having divorced Gee and assumed custody of their two children, he married Teresa Houston in November of 1982. Their daughter, Taylor Nicole, was born in 1985. He took custody of his older son Kerry as well. He loved the wilderness and was an avid hunter and fisherman.
At the time of his death Earnhardt remained tied with Richard Petty for the most Winston Cups in history. In At the Altar of Speed, Leigh Montville said of Earnhardt, "He was the bridge, the connector," between the old world of auto racing and modern high-stakes game at the turn of the twenty-first century.
- Dale Earnhardt Sr. - Related Biography: Winston Cup Driver Neil Bonnett
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