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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.

Dale Earnhardt

Michael Waltrip Wins Tragic Daytona 500

Waltrip, torn by Dale Earnhardt's Death
Michael Waltrip celebrates his victory before learning
that his boss and friend Dale Earnhardt was killed. (AP)

SportsLine.com wire reports
Waltrip's win overshadowed by tragedy
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt, the greatest stock car star of his era, was killed in a crash on the last turn of the last lap of Sunday's Daytona 500 as he tried to protect teammate Michael Waltrip's victory. The 49-year-old driver had to be cut from his battered car and was rushed to Halifax Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead of head injuries. "He had what I felt were life-ending type injuries at the time of impact and nothing could be done for him," said Dr. Steve Bohannon, an emergency physician at the hospital who also works for Daytona International Speedway. Michael Waltrip celebrates his victory before learning that his boss and friend Dale Earnhardt was killed. (AP)

Earnhardt, considered a master of super speedway racing, was locked in a battle for third place as his newest driver, Waltrip, and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., headed toward the finish line for what should have been the most triumphant moment in the brief history of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. The accident happened a half-mile from the finish of the NASCAR season-opener. Earnhardt, running fourth in his famed black No. 3 Chevrolet, grazed Sterling Marlin's car while fighting for position. He crashed into the concrete wall at the fourth turn going about 180 mph, and was smacked hard by Ken Schrader's car. "I guess someone got into Dale because Dale got into me and then we went up," Schrader said. "We hit pretty hard and Dale hit harder." The scene was grim as safety workers removed Earnhardt from the car, and the accident removed all the luster from a glittering race that kept the record crowd of 195,000 spectators on their feet most of the afternoon. Many of them were well on their way home when NASCAR president Mike Helton made the announcement, about 90 minutes after the race ended. "This is understandably the hardest announcement I've ever had to make," Helton said. "We've lost Dale Earnhardt."
Fans in and around the sprawling speedway wept after hearing the news. The death of Earnhardt left NASCAR reeling in the wake of a 2000 season in which three of its young stars were killed in separate accidents.
Adam Petty, the fourth generation of stock car racing's most famous family, and Kenny Irwin died in crashes two months apart at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Tony Roper was killed later in the year in a crash during a truck race at Texas Motor Speedway. All three died of the same type of head injuries that apparently killed Earnhardt. Following those deaths, safety had become a front-burner issue for the sport, with an ongoing debate over possible rule changes and the use of new safety equipment. The death completely overshadowed the victory by Waltrip, his first in 15 years and 463 starts in Winston Cup racing.
At first, Waltrip, the younger brother of retired three-time champion Darrell Waltrip, was jubilant, scrambling from his car in Victory Lane and shouting in a raspy voice: "This is the Daytona 500, and I won it! I won the Daytona 500! I can't believe it!". But he was somber as it became apparent that his new boss was badly injured. "The only reason I won this race is Dale Earnhardt," Waltrip said.
The race, with two- and three-wide driving and constantly changing positions, was also interrupted by a 21-car crash that sent Tony Stewart's car flying through the air. He, too, was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. Waltrip took the lead 16 laps from the end of the 200-lap race at Daytona International Speedway and stayed in front, with Earnhardt Jr. and the elder Earnhardt protecting his flank. "I thought it might be too bold or bragging to say we could win it in our first race as a team," Waltrip said. "But I thought we could. "I could never have won without Dale Jr.," he added. "I could never have won without the belief of Dale Sr." Thanks to the aerodynamic package that NASCAR came up with to promote better racing after last year's yawner at Daytona, the 43rd version of the stock car Super Bowl produced 49 lead changes among 14 drivers. Last year, there were just nine lead changes and virtually no real racing. The first race with the new super speedway aero package, last October at Talladega Super speedway, was just as breathtaking. It had 49 lead changes and race-long action, but the drivers somehow avoided what seemed inevitable -- a big crash. Not this time.
On lap 174, Stewart went flying and cars were crashing and spinning all over the back straightaway. When it was over, eight of last year's top 10 in the final points, including champion Bobby Labonte and three-time and defending Daytona winner Dale Jarrett, were knocked out of the race or had severe car damage. "There was no getting through it. It was like a wall of cars," said Jeff Gordon, a two-time Daytona winner. Not everyone was happy with the tight, tense racing. "Not a lot of fun," said Jarrett, whose Ford never got into contention. "It just wasn't a good day. That's no fun for me at all. I mean, you're totally at the mercy of someone else when you get three-wide. That's not racing."
Rusty Wallace, also involved in the big crash, finished the race with a jagged piece of sheet metal sticking from the side of his car. He wound up third, followed by Ricky Rudd and pole-winner Bill Elliott in the highest finishing Dodge.
This was the official return of the automaker to NASCAR's top series after a 16-year absence. It appeared one of the new Dodge Intrepid might win the race with Burton and Marlin dominating at times.
Burton's race ended with the car on a flatbed truck after the wreck, while a punctured tire nearly ended Marlin's chances. The multi-crash accident actually helped Marlin move back into contention, but he faded at the end and wound up giving new NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi a seventh-place finish.

Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2001, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Minutes after taking the checkered flag in the Daytona 500, the greatest moment in his 15-year career, Michael Waltrip was all but forgotten. Elation turned to grief as word came that Dale Earnhardt, Waltrip's longtime friend and competitor and his new car owner, was dead, killed in a last-lap crash.
The post race press conference for the younger brother of retired three-time champion Darrell Waltrip was cut short as an official from the Dale Earnhardt, Inc., team quickly ushered the winner out of the Daytona International Speedway press box.
In the immediate aftermath of the race, in which he won for the first time in 463 Winston Cup starts, Waltrip celebrated in Victory Lane, saying, "I won the Daytona 500. I can't believe it." Waltrip, considered by many the best Winston Cup driver never to have won a race, got the best chance of his career over the winter when Earnhardt, who continued to drive for Richard Childress Racing, hired Waltrip as a teammate to Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park at DEI.
Waltrip started 19th in the 43-car field and moved into contention late in the race, taking the lead for good 16 laps from the end of the 200-lap event. Asked when he knew he had a real chance to finally win a points race, the 37-year-old Waltrip said, "I couldn't believe it was playing out. I finally believed I was going to win with five to go. I put myself in position to do it and I did a good job protecting the lead." Through most of the late going Waltrip's flanks were protected by Earnhardt Jr. and the elder Earnhardt, who fended off a series of challengers as they tried to set up their own last-lap battle.
"We were all just trying to get to the end and then sort it out," Waltrip said. But, by the time he was brought to the press conference, his mood had turned somber. "My heart is hurting right now," Waltrip said. "I would rather be any place right this moment than here. It's so painful."

The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2001, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

UPDATE: Stunned Racing Community Lauds Simpson Turner Sports Interactive By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- On the day after he announced his resignation from the racing safety equipment company that bears his name, Bill Simpson was lauded as an innovator and a great friend, not only to the sport but to its participants, who admitted they were shocked by the news. Simpson, 61, announced his resignation -- which had been tendered two weeks previously Tuesday evening after holding a 30-minute live chat on NASCAR.com. On Wednesday afternoon, a reporter gave Ward Burton the word, Todd Bodine found out on the evening news and Jerry Nadeau refused to believe it was true until he had a chance to speak to Simpson himself. After years of literally putting their lives in Simpson’s hands, to a man an informal poll of stock car drivers Wednesday said it would be hard to replace the man. He was the innovator of so many things in the realm of safety, said Nadeau, who had experience with equipment from Simpson Performance Products first in open-wheel cars and later in stock cars. He was the guy who came up with a lot of new technology in helmets and gloves and fireproof stuff. His input has been a big aspect to each and every one of us in the sport. He’s been one of the leaders in the industry from well before I came on the scene, said Burton, who felt he was saved from more serious injury by wearing a head and neck restraint system developed by Simpson when he was involved in a crash last spring at California Speedway. He’s a good guy who put his whole heart and soul into the company. We’ll all suffer a little bit from his absence, but if I know Bill Simpson, he won’t be out of the sport for too long. I’ve been loyal to Bill Simpson ever since I met him, and I don’t see that changing at all. Simpson, who said after a short hiatus from the sport that he would quite likely re-enter the safety equipment realm, said Tuesday evening the emotional toll of being involved with the company on a daily basis had become more than he wanted to bear. Simpson sold two-thirds of the company that he started some 30 years ago about three and a half years ago. He remains the owner of one-third of the company. Simpson, who started his involvement in the sport as a driver, was particularly stung by the death on the final lap of February’s Daytona 500 of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, who he called a good friend. Five days after the accident, NASCAR held a news conference to announce it had found a separated seat belt, manufactured by Simpson Performance Products, in Earnhardt’s car. I find it unfortunate that Bill has found himself in a position that this is necessary, 1999 Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett said in another NASCAR.com chat on Wednesday afternoon. I have always used and feel comfortable using his equipment. I use his helmets and seatbelts and I have been fortunate with them. I am a friend of Bill’s and it is unfortunate it has come to this point. I hope he will reconsider. He has done more for safety in our sport than anyone else. We owe him more than we could repay. If he stays retired from this, we will miss him -- but he needs to know that he was an innovator and we have tremendous respect for him. Bill’s experience and knowledge of racing in general -- because he was a driver he understands that aspect of it -- is invaluable, Bodine said. You can’t put a price on it. Even after the statement by NASCAR (about Earnhardt's separated lap belt) -- I know in my heart and in my gut there was nothing wrong with the seatbelt -- something was done to it or it was not properly mounted. I hope he does stay involved in the sport -- especially in the safety area. He really cares and his knowledge of our sport is a tremendous asset to it. Even NASCAR, whose investigation into Earnhardt’s crash continues toward a highly anticipated resolution either later this month or in early September, praised the man. Bill Simpson has contributed immeasurably to the safety of motorsports over the past 30 years, NASCAR president Mike Helton said. His many innovations are a testament to his ingenuity and passion for our sport and we wish him well. For his part, Nadeau was not looking forward to lifearound the tracks without Simpson, who he credited with welcoming him to the Charlotte, N.C., area some six years ago when Nadeau relocated from Connecticut to pursue a stock car career. Bill is a great guy -- I like Bill a lot, Nadeau said, recalling his first holiday season in North Carolina. I didn’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving -- no money, no family. Bill called me up and invited me out to his place at the lake. He had what you might call a poor boy Thanksgiving party -- there must’ve been a hundred people over there a lot young guys who were trying to break into the sport on different levels. Bill’s been around a long time. He brought the safety issue up all through the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and into the future. He’s done a lot for us -- he’s done a lot for this sport. And after paying him the ultimate compliment, Nadeau said Simpson deserved to spend some time with his children and grandchildren, which he said was his short-term goal. I think he’s done enough for the sport on the safety aspect that he needs to probably enjoy a little bit of his life, Nadeau said. Simpson has been good to me and my race team as far as making things better. I hope he has a good life, but I don’t see Bill sitting down too long. He’s too much of an innovator -- he just loves coming up with things.


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.

Dog head hanging out #3 Window

Dale Earnhardt pages
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Teresa Interview Teresa Earnhardt Interview - Feb.2003 w/(photos)
The Story I, II The Story - Part 1 w/New in #3 car (photos)
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Dale Sr.'s Final Racing Career Stats Dale Sr.'s Final Eulogy - Download
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