Born on April 29, 1951 in Kannapolis N.C, Dale Earnhardt spent much of his young life watching his father, Ralph, race stockcars. Travelling with his father as he raced in events all across the south east of America, he quickly grew a love for cars and for racing. At the age of 5, he watched his father win the NASCAR Sportsman Championship.
In his late teens, Earnhardt took up racing in the Hobby-car class, racing in and around his hometown. During the day he worked as a mechanic, at night he spent his time working on his race car. Receiving no assistance from his parents, all his racing was self financed. Often he took out small loans in the hope that he would win back enough on the weekend to repay it quickly.
In 1973, Ralph Earnhardt died of heart failure while he was working on his race car. Dale Earnhardt was shattered by his fathers’ death, but continued to race, becoming more determined than ever to succeed. 2 years later, he made his Winston Cup debut in Charlotte in the World 600. Driving a dodge, he came 22nd. Over the next 3 years, up till the end of the 1978 season, Earnhardt got 8 more starts, with his most successful race being a 4th place in the 1978 Dixie 500 in Atlanta, driving for Rod Osterlund. Osterlunds' main driver left the team after the 1978 season, and, obviously impressed by his talents, gave Earnhardt a full-time spot in his team for the 1979 season.
Earnhardt showed his appreciation for being given his chance, by driving to his first ever Winston Cup win in the 7th race of the season in Bristol. Eight races later in Riverside, he scored his first pole position. At the end of the 79 season, Earnhardt had scored 11 top 5 finishes and beat out his rivals to win rookie of the year. Next year, in just his second full time season, Earnhardt drove to 5 wins and his first Winston Cup championship. It would not be his last.
"Championships have always driven me to win races. That 3 car pulling into the track would cause people to look around and wonder what we were doing, to see how to beat us."
1981 was an interrupted season for Earnhardt. Rod Osterlund sold his team to Jim Stacy, and Earnhardt left after 4 races, unhappy with the way the team was performing. He finished out the season racing for Richard Childress. However, Childress quickly determined that his cars weren't performing well enough someone as talented as Earnhardt. He organised a deal that would put Earnhardt in the well established Bud Moore team, which was sponsored heavily by Wrangler. Lasting 2 years, Earnhardt placed 12th and 8th in his 2 respective seasons, winning only 3 races. Childress wasn't finished with Earnhardt though. During Earnhardts 2 years away from the team, Childress re-organised the team and made it into a genuine championship contender. In the off season before the 1984 championship, Earnhardt re-signed with Childress.
Immediately, Earnhardt and Childress implemented a program that they believed would bring about the desired level of performance to capture the title. 2 years later, the plan bore its fruit, with Earnhardt taking out his second Winston Cup title, followed by a third the very next year. After disappointing finishes of 2nd and 3rd overall in the next 2 seasons, Earnhardt again took back to back titles (90 and 91), followed by 2 more titles in 1993 and 1994, taking his tally to 7 Winston Cup titles, an equal record amount. 1994 was the last season title Earnhardt would win, however, with his season end rankings slipping from 2nd in 1995 to 8th in 1998.
"When you've been accustomed to winning, winning big- and suddenly you're (not) hot anymore, it's going to make you feel down. That's human nature. It gnaws at your insides. But my confidence wasn't shaken by losing."
1998 wasn't all bad for Earnhardt however. After 20 attempts and a handful of near misses, Earnhardt captured the only title that had eluded him since he start over 20 years ago...the Daytona 500. In the same year, NASCAR honoured him and his father, by naming Ralph and Dale Earnhardt as 2 of the top 50 greatest drivers in history.
During the past decade, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had taken a strong interest in NASCAR racing, and after a mediocre season in 1999, Dale Earnhardt watched his son make his NASCAR debut. Earnhardt Sr. had somewhat of a comeback in 2000, narrowly missing out on an 8th championship. The 2 Earnhardts teamed up for the annual Rolex 24 hour race at Daytona, coming an impressive 4th overall.
The 2001 season will long be remembered by NASCAR fans as being one of the saddest seasons on record. It was February 18, 2001, Daytona 500 time once again. People close to the sport talked about putting on a Daytona to remember. The race was tight, fast and, at times, violent. Just 25 laps from the end, there was a horrific crash that took out 21 cars and sent the car of Tony Stewart flying through the air. By the last lap, with his team-mate Michael Waltrip running first and his son, Earnhardt Jr. running second, Earnhardt Sr. had taken to the role of blocker, keeping other competitors behind him to secure the win for his team-mate or son. On the final turn, Sterling Marlin made a move on the inside. Not wanting to let him through, Earnhardt Sr. moved his car down on the track. Marlin brushed the left tail of Earnhardts car, causing Earnhardt to spin out of control towards the top of the track. Earnhardt crashed into the wall at around 180 mph (290 kph), right next to Ken Schrader, who Earnhardt collected on his way through.
Celebrations for Waltrips win were short lived. The crew solemnly packed up the garage. Earnhardt was rushed to hospital, accompanied by his son, with his wife already there. 20 minutes later, it was announced that Dale Earnhardt had died on impact, due to massive head injuries. News of his death filtered back to fans at the track some 2 hours later. Fans lit a fire above the spot where Earnhardt died, holding a vigil late into the night. They cried, they hung flowers and caps on the fence, still unable to believe their hero was dead. At 7pm, Bill France, NASCAR board chairman, released a short statement:
"NASCAR has lost its greatest driver ever. And I personally have lost a great friend."
Over the months that followed, the outpouring of emotion was unprecedented. Dozens of tributes were performed. Fans reactions covered the Earnhardt merchandise trailer, a weekly salute on Lap 3 in honour of their lost champion. On the first of September 2001, Dale Earnhardt was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame. Every April 29th fans get together and celebrate "Dale Earnhardt Day", remembering his life and achievements, and to reflect on the tragic accident that took his life.
Known as the Intimidator due to his aggressive nature on the track, Dale Earnhardt will be remembered as the greatest NASCAR driver the sport has ever seen. The sport will never be quite the same without the Intimidator. He is survived by his wife, Teresa, and his 4 children, Kerry, Kelley, Dale Jr. and Taylor.
- Rookie of the Year, 1979
- Seven-Time NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion - 1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994
- Five-time NMPA Driver of the Year - 1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1994
- Only six-time winner of the Busch Clash - 1980, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995
- Only three-time winner of the Winston All-Star Race - 1987, 1990, 1993
- Two-time American Driver of the Year - 1987, 1994
- Four-time winner of the International Race of Champions- 1990, 1995, 1999, 2000
- Seven-time winner of the Goody's 300 Busch Series at Daytona (including five straight wins from 1990 - 1994)
- Daytona 500 Winner - 1998
- First American driver to receive AUTOSPORTS Gregor Grant Award
- First Winston Cup driver to drive at Suzaka Circuitland, Japan
- 12-time winner of the 125-mile qualifying race at Daytona (including ten straight wins from 1990 - 1999)
- Named ESPY's "Driver of the Decade" (1990's)
- Year 2000 marked Dale's 22nd full season on the NASCAR Winston Cup Circuit
- "Most Popular Driver" Award, 2001
"I think about Dad all the time, and it seems like there are good days and bad days. Just when you think you're beginning to feel better about it, you'll hit a bump in the road where you can't think about anything else....But it's not such a bad thing because I like to think about him often."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- http://www.newsday.com/sports/motorracing/orl-spt-dalestories,0,3239353.storygallery - Photos and animated movie of what happened
KissThis says Also don';t nkow if you mentioned it or not but they renamed a highway in his home state to Highway 3 - I think that's interested and could be included try 'earnhardt highway' in google search and you'll find tons of information on it :)
Any corrections please let me know, im not very knowledgeable about NASCAR racing