FEBRUARY 19, 2001
NASCAR Champion Earnhardt dies in Daytona 500
Earnhardt died from head injuries sustained in an accident on the final turn of the last lap of the 43rd Daytona 500. He was 49.
Going into the final corner Earnhardt's Chevrolet clipped the car of Sterling Marlin and slid sideways. The Pontiac of Ken Schrader slammed into his car, forcing both of them into the wall at speeds of around 180 mph.
"I don't know for sure what happened," Schrader said. "They spread out, so I just hung with the guys on the outside. I guess someone got into Dale because Dale got into me and then we went up the track. We hit pretty hard, and Dale hit harder."
The seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion - who was known as "The Intimidator" - never regained consciousness after the high-speed collision, and was pronounced dead at 5:16 local time at the Halifax Medical Center.
"NASCAR has lost its greatest driver," said NASCAR CEO Bill France. "And I have lost a great friend."
"Dale was the Michael Jordan of our sport," said HA 'Humpy' Wheeler, a NASCAR circuit owner. "We always thought of Dale as being invincible, so when he didn't climb out of that car after the wreck I knew it was bad.