a seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, died of injuries resulting from a
last-lap accident in Sunday's race.
Earnhardt, a seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, died of injuries resulting from a last-lap accident in Sunday's race.Earnhardt 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.
"This is understandably the toughest announcement I've ever had to make. We've lost Dale Earnhardt," NASCAR president Mike Helton said.
Earnhardt 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.
Waltrip, the younger brother of 1989 Daytona 500 winner Darrell Waltrip, held off teammate Earnhardt the final 10 laps before the tragic accident. Waltrip and Earnhardt's Chevrolets were both owned by Dale Earnhardt Sr. Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd, both in Fords, finished third and fourth, followed by pole-sitter Bill Elliott, who spearheaded the return of Dodge to the series.
The race was red-flagged on lap 175 for an 18-car wreck that took out many of the top contenders, including defending race champion Dale Jarrett and defending series champion Bobby Labonte.
Earnhardt Dead After Last-Lap Crash
Daytona Beach, Fla., Feb. 18 — Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR's greatest modern champion, was killed in a crash at the end of Sunday's Daytona 500, leaving the future of the sport in question.
Earnhardt was the spirit of NASCAR and by far its most popular star. The great irony is that Earnhardt died the day NASCAR's new-era network contracts began.
Earnhardt, 49, was running third and was blocking back charging Sterling Marlin. His drivers, Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr., were leading, with Waltrip going on to win.
Into the third turn, Marlin moved to the inside, with trailing Ken Schrader moving to the outside. Rusty Wallace, in sixth place, shot between the two to follow Earnhardt.
It is not clear what happened. It appeared that Earnhardt, caught in quiet air, lost rear wheel traction and veered into Marlin's car, bouncing off it twice before turning right and slamming into the wall, also taking out Schrader.
Schrader came from his car, ran to the side of Earnhardt's, then began waving to rescue crews. Earnhardt reportedly was unconscious in the car.
He was taken directly to Halifax Medical Center without a stop at the care center. His wife, Teresa, and sons Kerry and Dale Jr. (who had finished second in the race) followed, as did car owner Richard Childress, in a separate vehicle.
Team members were informed in a private meeting at the side of the RCR hauler, then immediately left the track. Many were in tears.
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