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History At Daytona: Remembering Dale Earnhardt

(Jon Ferrey /Allsport)

The big news on Sunday in auto racing was Danica Patrick becoming the first woman in history to win the pole for the Daytona 500. The news today is that it’s the anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt, considered  to be one of the greatest race car drivers in history.

I’m not a huge NASCAR fan. In fact, I don’t know that I’m even a small NASCAR fan, but as a sports fan, I do like to catch the big races. The Daytona 500 is to NASCAR what the Super Bowl is to football. Like a lot of sports fans, I was watching the race on February 18th 2001 when Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last lap crash at Daytona International Speedway.

Driving his famous black #3, Earnhardt was not going to win this race, but was vying for third place – and a bigger pay day. There was contact  first with Sterling Marlin – then with Ken Schrader in the #36 yellow M & M’s car, and Earnhardt went crashing nose first into the wall. At a speed of about 160 miles per hour,   the force of the impact has been said to be the equivalent of a drop from a height of 62 feet. Earnhardt was killed instantly. He became the 4th NASCAR drive to die in a 9-month period, which prompted officials to implement  stringent safety regulations.

“The Intimidator”, as he was known, won 76 races in his career and 7 championships. At the time of his death at age 49, Earnhardt was legendary. After his death, he became a legend. This was a day that sports fans, not just NASCAR fans, will never forget.

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