Daytona 500
CNNSI.com

Shop Fantasy Central Golf Guide Free e-mail Travel Subscribe SI About Us
  CNNSI.com
  Daytona Home
Winston Cup Preview
NASCAR+
NASCAR2
Schedule
The Speedway
Directions
Photo Gallery
NASCAR.com

EVENTS
 Sportsman of the Year
 Heisman Trophy
 Swimsuit 2001

CENTERS
 Fantasy Central
 Inside Game
 Video Plus
 Statitudes
 Your Turn
 Message Boards
 Email Newsletters
 Golf Guide
 Cities
 

CNNSI.com GROUP
 Sports Illustrated
 Life of Reilly
 SI Women
 SI for Kids
 Press Room
 TBS/TNT Sports
 CNN Languages

COMMERCE
 SI Customer Service
 SI Media Kits
 Get into College
 Sports Memorabilia
 TeamStore

 

Earnhardt dies after last-lap crash

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Sunday February 18, 2001 5:32 PM
Updated: Monday February 19, 2001 8:06 AM

  Dale Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt was a seven-time Winston Cup champion and winner of the 1998 Daytona 500. AP

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt, one of the greatest stars in auto racing history, died Sunday from injuries in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500.

The seven-time Winston Cup champion, known as The Intimidator for his aggressive driving, had to be cut out of his car after slamming into the wall on the final turn of the race while fighting for position.

He was taken to the hospital accompanied by his son, Dale Jr., a young NASCAR star who finished second in the race. The elder Earnhardt's wife, Teresa, also was at the hospital.

"This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements I have ever personally had to make. We've lost Dale Earnhardt," NASCAR president Mike Helton said.

Earnhardt, 49, died instantly of head injuries, said Steve Bohannon, a doctor at Halifax Medical Center.

"There was nothing that could have been done for him," he said.

The death comes at a time that driver safety issues were under increased scrutiny. Three NASCAR drivers were killed in wrecks last season.

The wreck happened a half-mile from the finish of the NASCAR season-opener, won by Michael Waltrip.

Earnhardt, running fourth, grazed Sterling Marlin's car, crashed into the wall at the high-banked fourth turn going about 180 mph, and was smacked hard by Ken Schrader.

"NASCAR has lost its greatest driver ever, and I personally have lost a great friend," NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said.

Neil Bonnett, one of Earnhardt's best friends, was killed in practice for the 1994 Daytona 500. Rodney Orr died in a wreck three days later, also in practice, and was the last driver killed at the track until Earnhardt.

It was the second major wreck in five years in the race for Earnhardt. He flipped wildly on the backstretch near the end of the race in 1997 but was not seriously hurt. He came back to win the race the next year on his 20th try.

Earnhardt is the leader among active Winston Cup drivers with 76 career victories. He also had the most victories, 34, at Daytona International Speedway, which lowered its infield flag to half-staff following the race.

"My heart is hurting right now," Waltrip, the race winner, said before news of Earnhardt's death was announced. "I would rather be any place right this moment than here. It's so painful."

Earnhardt Jr. quickly left the post-race celebration for Waltrip, and sprinted to the infield care center to be with his father. It took several minutes to get the elder Earnhardt out of the car, and he was quickly taken to Halifax Hospital.

Meanwhile, the crowd at Victory Circle was chanting "DEI, DEI," for Dale Earnhardt Inc., which owns the cars of his son and Waltrip. The celebration, which usually lasts 30 minutes, ended quickly.

Fans in and around the sprawling speedway wept after hearing the news.

Sean Brong, 46, a Daytona Beach resident, went to Halifax Medical Center afterward.

"People like this are not supposed to die. These are heroes," Brong said. "He went to his peak and beyond. It was way too short-lived.

"You can't lose someone like this when it could have been prevented," Brong said.

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.

Last May, Busch Series driver Adam Petty, the grandson of stock car great Richard Petty, was killed in Loudon, N.H. Two months later, Winston Cup driver Kenny Irwin also was killed at New Hampshire International Speedway.

NASCAR truck series driver Tony Roper was killed in October at Texas Motor Speedway.

 
Related information
Stories
Dale Earnhardt Career Statistics
Dale Earnhardt Career Highlights
Multimedia
Visit Multimedia Central for the latest audio and video
Search our site Watch CNN/SI 24 hours a day
Sports Illustrated and CNN have combined to form a 24 hour sports news and information channel. To receive CNN/SI at your home call your cable operator or DirecTV.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

   
CNNSI   Copyright © 2001 CNN/Sports Illustrated. An AOL Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines.