Dale Earnhardt ‘Intimidator’ Documentary Airing on ESPN Marking 20th Anniversary of NASCAR Legend’s Death

by Madison Miller

“Intimidator: The Lasting Legacy of Dale Earnhardt” will air on ESPN on Feb. 14 at noon. The documentary celebrates the legendary success and characteristics of Dale Earnhardt.

ESPN is releasing the documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death. It is right ahead of this weekend’s Daytona 500 race.

Not only will the documentary address the life and accomplishments of the racer, but his legacy as well. After his death, stock car racing had a number of changes that would eventually make the sport much safer.

When the 2001 Daytona 500 led to a thrilling finish at the end line, many fans were oblivious of what was going on with Earnhardt on the course. He had collided with Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader and was killed instantly.

Fans and announcers had no idea how serious the situation was. However, when Schrader went to check on Earnhardt he saw that he had died in the car.

The documentary will feature interviews from people like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, and Steve Bohannon. The voices are people from the racing community as well as others who witnessed the fatal day in sports history. ESPN’s Ryan McGee, a longstanding NASCAR reporter, worked on the story.

An ESPN release said, “Twenty years ago, the world of racing lost one of its biggest stars when Dale Earnhardt died during a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500. In a new special, ESPN’s E60 will take viewers back to that fateful day to explore the legacy of Dale Earnhardt and the effect his loss has had on the sport of NASCAR, including safety improvements to cars and racetracks.”

How Dale Earnhardt’s Death Changed Racing

The documentary will go into depth on that day at Daytona 500. However, it will also discuss how Earnhardt’s lasting legacy will be finally forcing the push for more safety in racing.

According to AJC, in 2001 NASCAR opened a research-and-development center in Concord, North Carolina. The Car of Tomorrow was created here, which included new safety features like impact-absorbing crush zones and larger seats and restraints.

Also, there are SAFER barriers that absorb the energy of a crash and catch fences also help secure tracks.

According to Sportscasting, his death was the result of his head and neck being inadequately restrained when he hit the wall going over 160 mph. NASCAR teams started using six-point safety harnesses and then eventually head-and-neck restraints.

Evidence of the success of these changes is evident with Ryan Newman’s crash, which was similar to Earnhardt’s. He was able to walk out of the hospital shortly after his crash.