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How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

February 18, 2001. Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, the fearless 'Intimidator', was in his element at the Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team's cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona. But his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

As he threw his final block, Earnhardt's left-rear corner tagged Sterling Marlin's right-front fender, getting the RCR Chevy loose. Earnhardt battled for control, his car clipping the apron, unsettling it still further, and so it began to spin clockwise, moving up the track and across the bows of the closely-following Rusty Wallace and Ken Schrader. His right-rear corner was struck by Schrader's left-front, which crucially accentuated the angle of Earnhardt's car (between 53 and 55 degrees in relation to the wall) before it nosed hard into the unprotected concrete.

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