Dale Earnhardt, Sr. is greatly missed in the world of stock car racing and NASCAR. He was killed instantly during the Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001 after a collision with Ken Schrader and Sterling Marlin on the final lap.
Earnhardt was one of the great racers, as well as a team owner. He began his professional racing career in 1975 in the Winston Cup Series and won more than 76 races. One of his greatest victories was the 1998 Daytona 500.
He captured seven Winston Cup titles in all, tying the legendary Richard Petty. Inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, Earnhardt earned the nickname “The Intimidator” thanks to his aggressive driving style.
Earnhardt was born into a racing family in North Carolina in April 1951. His father Ralph was a noted short-track driver in his home state and mentored his son before dying of a heart attack at the age of 45 in 1973.
While Ralph did not pursue a professional career, Dale dropped out of high school to chase his driving dreams. Dale later passed his love of racing to Dale, Jr., now a top NASCAR driver.
Although Dale is known for driving the No. 3 car he started his Winston Cup career manning the No. 8 Dodge Charger. He finished 22nd in his first race and wasn’t a regular participant in the Cup series until 1979.
Earnhardt’s career blossomed after joining Rod Osterlund Racing. He won at Bristol in 1979 and finished with 11 top 5s. In 1980, Earnhardt won five races and took home his first Winston Cup championship.
Earnhardt joined Childress Racing in 1984 and finished his career with that team. The rest is history.
Today, Earnhardt is still remembered fondly around NASCAR racetracks. “Earnhardt Tower”, a section of seats at Dayton International was named in his honor following his death. He also has many roads and streets named after him, including one in his hometown of Kannapolis, North Carolina.
When Jimmie Johnson won his 76th career race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2016, tying Earnhardt’s record, the driver held up three fingers out his window to honor Earnhardt. Johnson’s sign of respect was reminiscent to what fans did during the third lap of every NASCAR race following Earnhardt’s death.
He may be gone, but Dale Earnhardt’s legacy will always live.