Out of all the sports one can participate in, fewer are more dangerous and intense than NASCAR and other auto racing competitions. These races have dozens of cars racing at the same time at break-neck speeds mere inches from each other. And one of the drivers that best personified this danger and intensity was none other than “The Intimidator”, Dale Earnhardt. He was one of the most successful and legendary drivers ever.
Earnhardt took an interest in racing from a young age as his father was one of the best race car drivers in North Carolina. And despite his father not wanting Dale to take up a career in race car driving, he went against his father’s wishes and dropped out of school to chase his dreams of being a professional racer.
He worked hard throughout his late teens and early 20s to get better and better at driving and by the time he was 24 years old, he could officially call himself a professional NASCAR racer. His first official race was the 1975 World 600 in the Winston Cup. He had a great rookie campaign with one win, and numerous other great finishes and great starts, en route to winning the rookie of the year.
His sophomore season was even better as he picked up numerous impressive wins and ultimately won his first Winston Cup points championship. To this date, he was the first and only racer to win rookie of the year and the Winston Cup championship the following year. As you could see, his career was off to an amazing start and he had all the potential in the world.
Earnhardt kept up this amazing start throughout his career that spanned 4 decades, winning and placing in a ton of races and becoming one of the most popular racers in the process. He also gained the nickname “The Intimidator” for his aggressive driving style and his willingness to do what it takes to win, even if it put him in danger. Unfortunately, it was this attitude that ultimately led to his demise.
At the 2001 Daytona 500 (in which his son was also racing in), Earnhardt was involved in a three car accident in which he collided head on with the car of Ken Schrader and died instantly due to blunt force trauma. The craziest part is that this crash occurred on the very final lap. This crash and subsequent death led to Nascar making a ton of safety improvements across the board.
His legacy has lived on and he is still seen as one of the most legendary and important racers in NASCAR history. He won 76 Winston Cup races over his career as well as winning seven NASCAR Winston Cup championships, which is tied for the most of all time with Richard Petty. He also has several roads named after him throughout the USA and his contributions and success in the sport will never be forgotten.