Charlie Daniels’ ‘Intimidator’: The Story Behind the Dale Earnhardt Tribute

by Clayton Edwards
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Charlie Daniels was a lifelong NASCAR fan. Like many race fans, he felt the death of Dale Earnhardt deeply. Thousands of fans across the country mourned the loss of the seven-time Winston Cup champion. As songwriters often do, Daniels worked through his pain with music. He wrote a tribute to Dale Sr. and his final win in the track “The Intimidator”.

Charlie Daniels’ Tribute to Dale Sr.

Instead of mourning the death of Earnhardt, “The Intimidator” focuses on the final triumph of the racing legend. In the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Speedway, Dale passed seventeen cars in the final four laps to capture the win. He crossed the line under a second before Kenny Wallace. It is still hailed as one of the most exciting races in the sport’s history.

At the end of the song, Charlie Daniels gives a nod to Dale Earnhardt Jr. “You almost got this sucker won, the engine’s running great but don’t look in your rearview mirror. Here comes Number 8. He’s a rocker and a roller and he sure knows how to shut them down. I guess it runs in the family. The Intimidator’s back in town.”

The song plays like a Southern rock ballad. In the opening seconds of the tune, the guitars sound like engines revving. The heart-pounding rhythm of the track and Charlie’s storytelling ability ensure that it will engross even those who are unfamiliar with NASCAR or Earnhardt.

The track was featured on the 2004 album “Essential Super Hits” alongside rerecorded and cleaned-up versions of many of the band’s biggest hits.

The Death of the Intimidator

In the final lap of the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt’s number 3 car made contact with Ken Schrader and Sterling Martin before hitting the retaining wall. He died instantly upon impact. He was the fourth driver to die as a result of a basilar skull fracture in eight months.

Over 17 million viewers watched Earnhardt’s final race along with those in the crowd that day. NASCAR fans everywhere felt the loss. His death lead to the sport implementing several new safety precautions including head and neck restraints.

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