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Dale Earnhardt Daytona Crash Kills
Nascar's Greatest Hero

The beloved Intimidator of NASCAR's Winston Cup series crashed hard into the wall during Sunday's final lap at the Daytona 500. Earnhardt was third at the time of the wreck and to the drivers for the New team that he owned. Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. running 1-2. Waltrip wins his first race, but the sport loses one of its greatest legend.

1951-2001
Dale Earnhardt
Feb.18, 2001 2001
Earnhardt's loss is greatest in history of NASCAR
By Bob Zeller: Sports Writer
SportsLine.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR engineered one of the most competitive Daytona 500's ever Sunday, but it came at the greatest cost the sport has ever known. Dale Earnhardt, 49, the greatest active driver in American motor racing, lost his life in a head-on crash with the outside wall in the final turn of the last lap. It was the first time in the 43-year history of the speedway that a driver was killed during the Daytona 500 itself.
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Michael Waltrip's
celebrations are cut short by news of the
seriousness of Dale Earnhardt crash.
Waltrip grieves

(AP)
  Tragedy and triumph danced to the same macabre song of speed as two cars owned by Earnhardt sped under the checkered flag in a one-two finish about 10 seconds after he crashed. It was the greatest finish ever for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. But by then, the seven-time Winston Cup champion was already gone, slumped in the driver's seat of his Richard Childress-owned Goodwrench Chevrolet.
And as a hoarse Michael Waltrip deliriously celebrated his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory, he was barely aware that his car owner had even crashed. Earnhardt's son Dale Jr. who finished second, crawled out of his car and rushed toward turn four to see if he could find out what happened to his father.

  "All this would be a dream if it wasn't for Dale Earnhardt," Waltrip said in victory lane. "I think he might have been in a wreck. I don't even know. I hope he's OK."
Waltrip said later that he kept looking for Dale Earnhardt to show up in victory lane. But the only driver who came to visit was Ken Schrader, who had crashed with Earnhardt. Schrader told Waltrip that Earnhardt was badly injured.
 
  At about 6:55 p.m. Sunday, more than two hours after the race had ended, NASCAR president Mike Helton stepped to the microphone in the infield media center to make "one of the toughest announcements I've had to make." His voice almost breaking, Helton said, "After the accident in turn four ... we've lost Dale Earnhardt."
NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., who had become one of Earnhardt's closest personal friends during the driver's long, distinguished career, issued this brief statement: "Today NASCAR lost its greatest driver in the history of the sport. I lost a dear friend."
 
  Death was instantaneous for the Michael Jordan of NASCAR. He was unconscious and unresponsive when the first paramedics arrived. Three doctors began working on him. One held his spine steady while another crawled in the passenger window and applied oxygen. Another gave the lifeless driver CPR. Meanwhile, firemen began peeling back the roof of Earnhardt's car to remove him. It took about a minute and a half to transport him to nearby Halifax Hospital, where a full trauma team was waiting.
 
  "He arrived at the hospital at 16:54 (4:54 p.m.) and a full trauma resuscitation was attempted for a little over 20 minutes," said Dr. Steve Bohannon, a trauma surgeon who heads the speedway's emergency medical services. "He never showed any signs of life. He was subsequently pronounced dead by all of the physicians at 17:16 (5:16 p.m.) He had what I feel were life-ending type injuries at the time of impact and really nothing could be done for him."

  Bohannon speculated that Earnhardt died of head injuries, "particularly to the base of the skull. He was unconscious and unreponsive from the time of the first paramedics' arrival. He was not breathing and had no palpable pulse and remained that way throughout."
Bohannon said Earnhardt's body was turned over to the local medical examiner's office and "I suspect that an autopsy will be done tomorrow to determine the exact cause of death."

  After the somber announcement was made, the large American flag in the Daytona infield was lowered to half staff.
By that time, Waltrip had long since finished the winner's interview in the press box high above the track. Although the tragic news had not yet been announced, the winner's interview was shorter than usual and Waltrip did not stick around for the usual one-on-one interviews that occur afterward.
"The only reason I won this race was because of Dale Earnhardt," Waltrip said. "He wasn't in victory lane. I just pray that he's OK. My heart is hurting right now. He was so helpful to me and this is how it all turns out. It doesn't seem quite right to me."

  The ironies abounded in the highest-profile tragedy NASCAR has ever experienced. Sunday's 500 was Waltrip's first race as a member of Earnhardt's three-car team. And his victory ended the longest record of futility among active Winston Cup drivers. Waltrip had driven in 462 Winston Cup races dating back to 1985.
The fatal accident occurred at the end of one of the tightest, most hotly contested races in Daytona history. Fourteen different drivers traded the lead 49 different times. Although these numbers are not records, what was different about this race when compared to the great slingshot battles in Daytona history was how tightly packed the cars were during the long afternoon.
After one of the least exciting Daytona 500s last year, NASCAR instituted rule changes that required cars to install, among other things, a small air spoiler across the top of the roof. The rule change allowed cars to pass each other easier, but they remained bunched together because of the carburetor restrictor plates that reduce engine horsepower and keep speeds down at Daytona.
After racing in one huge pack for 174 laps, the field was literally cut in half by a gigantic, 19-car crash on the backstretch. That wreck, the so-called "big one" that has become a regular part of Daytona racing, sent rising star Tony Stewart flipping down the pavement. Stewart suffered a concussion and was to spend the night at Halifax Hospital for observation.

  When the race restarted on lap 180, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading. Sterling Marlin took the lead on lap 182 and then Earnhardt Sr. jumped into the lead and led lap 183 -- the last lap he would lead in his storied career. Waltrip squeezed past on lap 184 and led the final 17 circuits.
As the final lap unfolded, Earnhardt was following his son and Waltrip. The first three cars were in a single line. But just behind Earnhardt, Sterling Marlin, Ken Schrader and Rusty Wallace were in a furious three-wide battle.

  Earnhardt moved from the center of the turn toward the bottom, either to block Marlin or to try to give himself a chance to pass his son. Although there were some reports that Marlin touched Earnhardt's bumper, most observers in the press box concluded that there was no contact and that Earnhardt lost control because Marlin's car disrupted the air flow across Earnhardt's rear spoiler -- a common problem that drivers must overcome at Daytona.
In any event, Earnhardt lost control and began to spin. When his left front wheel hit the flat at the bottom of the banking, that jerked the car back to the right and the black Chevy shot straight back up the banking and slammed head-on into the outside wall, collecting Schrader's car in the process. Both cars slid to a stop in the grass on the inside of the exit of turn four as Waltrip flashed across the finish line.

  In the broadcast booth, Michael Waltrip's freshly retired brother, Darrell, cried tears of joy, unaware that he had simultaneously witnessed the greatest tragedy in all of stock car racing. And in yet another irony, as Michael Waltrip celebrated in victory lane, perhaps 20 feet behind him, on the other side of the wall behind the stage, sat a familiar black Chevrolet with the famous "3" on its side. It was one of Earnhardt's show cars. It had been used by Fox Sports, which was broadcasting its first race under its new multi-million dollar contract to televise NASCAR races.

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Crash photos Shots taken at the moment of impact
Dale Earnhardt is killed after crashing into
the wall on the last lap of the last turn of the race.

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Inside #3 Car Photos are Graphic-Adult Supervision Required
crash report death certificate car car car car
Crash Report Death Certificate Inside #3 car Inside #3 car Inside #3 car Inside #3 car

Click to Expand Images
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Dale Earnhardt's Crash in the #3
Never before seen in car clips and interviews.
Bonus video with the Auction of a Richard Childress Memento for the #3

Your Browser Does Not Support this Plug-in, locate and install to view movie.

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www.racelinecentral.com
UPDATE:
NASCAR president Mike Helton
at the forefront of the Dale Earnhardt investigation.
Mike Helton, Rusty Wallace, Ward Burton
Autoliv at forefront of Earnhardt probe
Dobler says NASCAR re-enactment opened her eyes.
6:25 PM EDT (2225 GMT) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
The paramedic who crawled into Dale Earnhardt's car after his fatal crash at the Daytona 500 is convinced of a seat-belt failure, most likely upon the car's impact with the concrete wall, this after participating in a re-enactment of the crash scene.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Believe it, seat belts tear and break.

NASCAR president Mike Helton
at the forefront of the Dale Earnhardt investigation.
Still, that fact is one of the great mysteries in the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt. The idea of his three-inch wide, heavy-duty lap belt ending up in two pieces is mind-boggling, even if it didn't cost him his life. A nylon belt just doesn't split, right?

It can happen, and to believe, maybe you have to witness for yourself.
**Further reading at this site will show that the seatbelt was cut by the paramedics on seen and that there was a spectator filming the time of the accident. This confirmed that the seatbelt did not break on impact.
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Below is an ESPN commercial in which a few different versions were made by well known
Nascar Cup Drivers.
The one I have here is of Dale Earnhardt and is truly the funniest of them all. I have made it available for download since it was something that helped lift my spirits after Dale's crash. It was the only thing that kept me from being down after I witness the terrible crash at Daytona on live T.V.
THE
DALE EARNHARDT'S
NASCAR - ESPN TV COMMERCIAL
DOGGY.ZIP

DOWNLOAD NOW
Dog head hanging out #3 Window

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THE LEGEND
Dale Earnhardt pages
Dale Earnhardt & Family Quick Menu
Teresa Interview ENTER
Teresa Interview Transcript: Presentation of Earnhardt Accident Report
Teresa Interview Teresa Earnhardt Interview - Feb.2003 w/(photos)
The Story I, II The Story - Part 1 w/New in #3 car (photos)
The Story I, II The Story - Part 2
The Statue of Dale Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt Statue is Unveiled w/(photos)
A photo display of the Dale Earnhardt Legacy of Racing Dale Earnhardt Photo Legacy of Racing w/(photos)
Dale Sr.'s Final Racing Career Stats Dale Earnhardt Final Career Stats
Dale Sr.'s Final Racing Career Stats Dale Sr.'s ESPN TV Commercial
Dale Sr.'s Final Racing Career Stats Dale Sr.'s Final Eulogy-Download

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