Today is the 20th anniversary of racing legend Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death.
On Feb. 18, 2001, Earnhardt was racing in the final lap of the Daytona 500. He crashed into a retaining wall after colliding with Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader. He was killed instantly.
His death had a huge impact on racing. A number of new safety installments and procedures have had proven success in making the sport safer. While his post-life legacy in racing has a lot to do with safety, Earnhardt was also a spectacular racer. He also had a remarkable mustache.
He won a series of titles and was one of the most popular auto racing figures at the time. Take a look at some of his best moments that celebrate the life of Dale Earnhardt.
Career Milestones for Dale Earnhardt
Earnhardt had been racing starting in 1975.
Throughout his profound career, he had 76 different NASCAR Cup Series victories. He had too many success stories to even be able to describe each.
According to the NASCAR site, his very first was on April 1, 1979. He was racing at the Bristol International Speedway for the Southeastern 500. This was the start of his four decades of racing success and seven championships.
Earnhardt ended a winless streak he had dating back from 1980 when he won the Rebel 500 on April 4, 1982. It was his very first win with a Ford car.
Gradually, Earnhardt was coming out on top of a number of the NASCAR races. Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s net worth is estimated to be about $70 million.
His First Daytona 500 Win
For many racers, winning the Daytona 500 is the ultimate prize. For Earnhardt, he chased that title for about 20 years. While he had huge success in racing, he never managed to win the Daytona 500 trophy until 1998.
His very first race was in the 1975 Winston Cup race where he finished in 22nd. However, it was only up from there.
On Feb. 15, 1998, he sped to first at the Daytona International Speedway. It would be his only Daytona 500 victory during his career.
According to History.com, he was driving his black No. 3 Chevrolet and averaged a speed of 172.712 mph. His prize money was over $1 million. All the crews from competing teams lined up as Earnhardt did celebratory donuts on the grass.
For Earnhardt and racing fans, this is likely one of the most epic and memorable moments in racing. It was the moment “The Intimidator” had reached his long-awaited goal.
Dale Earnhardt Out of the Car
Besides being an exceptional racer, Earnhardt is known for his personal life and personality. He was married three times during his life. He also had four kids during his life.
This included Kerry, Kelley, Dale, and Taylor.
Earnhardt had won the Most Popular Driver award 13 seasons in a row. His success on the track led him to create the business called Dale Earnhardt Inc. His second marriage actually ended because he placed so much of his time and energy and money into racing.
According to Ken Willis in Auto Racing Digest, “For two decades … Earnhardt was part of the national Sunday fabric in a way known only by the likes of Ed Sullivan and Billy Graham. The entire industry benefited.”
A year before his death, 25% of NASCAR’s $1.1 billion merchandising sales were related to Earnhardt sales. His business continued to grow with his success. It would eventually be worth $41.6 million, with 200 employees and three cars on the NASCAR circuit, according to Your Dictionary.
There was a reason he was called “The Intimidator.” He had an aggressive, take-no-prisoners style. While he was great at passing drivers if he couldn’t do that he would just smash them into a wall. His same “bad guy” personality often translated into his private life as well.
‘The Pass in the Grass’
One of the most legendary racing moments for Earnhardt is when he performed what is now called “The Pass in the Grass.”
According to NY Daily News, it happened during the 1987 All-Star race. Earnhardt was in the lead when Bill Elliot started to push up. He gave Earnhardt’s car a tap that sent his car shooting sideways through the grassy infield. Rather than spinning out, Earnhardt took his foot off of the gas and maneuvered.
He eventually got back onto the track, hit the gas, and never left his spot at No. 1. It is one of the most miraculous moments in NASCAR history and showcases the talent behind Earnhardt’s racing.
When it comes to his racing, there’s hundreds of edge-of-your-seat moments. His popularity was well deserved.