Darkest day (2001)
Millions of fans lost their living legend on Feb. 18, 2001 when Dale Earnhardt, 49, was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Earnhardt was battling, blocking, pushing until the end, when his No. 3 Chevrolet nosed into the Turn 4 wall. His death gave greater momentum to a movement toward greater safety development and implementation, and likely saved scores of drivers who sustained similar crashes in the ensuing decade.