Dale Earnhardt Died 22 Years Ago Today, And He Was Everything Great About NASCAR

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Dale Earnhardt, arguably NASCAR’s greatest racer and inarguably the sport’s biggest icon, died 22 years ago today.

Yep. Hard to believe, but it’s been over two decades since The Intimidator wrecked coming off Turn 4 on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Earnhardt was just 49.

He finished his Hall of Fame career with 76 wins, seven NASCAR championships, and, of course, the one Daytona 500 in 1998. Earnhardt’s death was the news for weeks, transcended the sport, and marked a turning point for NASCAR safety protocols.

Don’t know if you’ve heard, but Dale wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of the HANS (Head and Neck Support) device back then. It was optional when Earnhardt died at Daytona. By the end of the year, it was mandatory.

It’s been 22 years, so we’ve all seen the replay by now.

It was FOX’s first season broadcasting NASCAR, and Darrell Waltrip’s first real stint in the booth. DW and Earnhardt were rivals on the track, but close friends off of it.

In fact, when I spoke to Waltrip a few years ago, he said he spoke to Dale just hours before the race.

“He said, ‘I’ve got it all DW — my family, my company, DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) is doing great — I’ve got it all,” Waltrip said. “He told me he’d never been so happy.”

I was just 7 when Earnhardt died, so I obviously don’t remember much. In fact, I grew up a Jeff Gordon fan, so I spent my early days rooting against him! Shameful, I know.

But I’ve also covered the last seven Daytona 500s, and I can tell you, everyone is an Earnhardt fan today. Wanna know the most popular shirt/flag/hat/body paint you see in the infield at Daytona International Speedway every single year?

Yeah, it’s the black No. 3. And it ain’t close.

Although the Lets Go Brandon flags have certainly given Dale a run for his money in recent years, but that’s for another time!

Anyway, all that to say Dale Earnhardt was and is a legend and we shouldn’t let one year go by without remembering him. So, let’s get our Daytona 500 weekend started with some iconic Dale videos and pictures.

Feel free to crack a beer while browsing. I know Earnhardt would!

NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt through the years

Dale Earnhardt died in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Dale Earnhardt is still everything right about NASCAR.

Written by Zach Dean

Zach grew up in Florida, lives in Florida, and will never leave Florida ... for obvious reasons. He's a reigning fantasy football league champion, knows everything there is to know about NASCAR, and once passed out (briefly!) during a lap around Daytona. He swears they were going 200 mph even though they clearly were not.


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  1. Thanks for this article. Nice to go through the videos, and not even so much the racing ones because I remember those, but the other ones that show the way he was outside the car. I think that was his draw, it wasn’t the way he passed or wrecked on racetracks, but the way he spoke and carried himself, I was certainly a fan and was shocked that something like that could even happen….whatever it was, rooting for him (and subsequently Dale jr) as their car glides on the banking at Daytona or Dega in a 3-wide pack 7 deep mile after mile is as majestic as a choreographed theater with the drama of the race and the nerves building. Cheers

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