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Sunday, February 18
Earnhardt died instantly of head injuries
ESPN.com news services

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Michael Waltrip's Daytona 500 victory was marred by the tragic death of NASCAR motor racing legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. He was 49.

Dale EarnhardtEarnhardt, 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.The Crash

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.


From Speedvision:
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.

Click for Larger View 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.

Earnhardt Sr. dies after last-lap crash
February 18, 2001
7:12 PM EST (0012 GMT)

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 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 Earnhardts were whisked away in an ambulance after The Intimidator got tangled up in a nasty wreck on the last lap.

The accident happened a half-mile from the finish of the NASCAR season opener when Earnhardt, running fourth, hit Sterling Marlin, hit the wall in the high-banked fourth turn and was smacked hard by Ken Schrader.

"We were three deep and he hit me," Marlin said. "Then he turned around."

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.

The crash was not as spectacular as a 19-car wreck 25 laps earlier that took out 18 cars. Tony Stewart was injured in that accident, but the track said he did not have life-threatening injuries.

Stewart did have a concussion and was undergoing a CT scan.

Earnhardt was a factor in the race throughout, and spent the final laps in close proximity to his son and Waltrip, trying to block Marlin. The Dodge driver had just passed Earnhardt, who was trying to get back by him on the low side of the track when there was slight contact that set his Chevrolet spinning up the 31-degree banking.

It turned to the right, and Schrader could not avoid hitting it.

Both cars slowly began to slide down the banking to the bottom of the track as the rest of the field race by, but there was no further contact.

Earnhardt Jr. quickly left the postrace 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 the hospital.

Dale Earnhardt Home Page

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