Dale Earnhardt: Quick Facts
Birth Name: Ralph Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Date of Birth: 29 April 1951
Place of Birth: Kannapolis, North Carolina
Date of Death: 18 February 2001 (Forty Nine Years of Age)
Place of Death: Daytona Beach, Florida
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma to his head, resulting from crash on racetrack.
Height: Six Foot, 1 Inch.
Weight: 195 Pounds
Spouse(s): Latane Brown (Married in 1968; Divorced in 1970); Brenda Gee (Married in 1971; Divorced in 1974); Teresa Houston (Married in 1982)
Children: Kerry Earnhardt; Kelley King Earnhardt; Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Taylor Nicole Earnhardt.
Father: Ralph Earnhardt
Mother: Martha Coleman
Sibling(s): Danny Earnhardt; Randy Earnhardt; Cathy Earnhardt; Kaye Earnhardt
Occupation: Professional Race Car Driver
Awards and Achievements: Seven Winston Cup Series Championship Wins (1980; 1986; 1987; 1990; 1991; 1993; 1994); 1979 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year Award; 2001 Winston Cup Series “Most Popular Driver”; 1998 (Named one of NASCAR’s Top 50 Drivers of All Time); 2002 Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee; 2006 International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee; 2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee
Nickname(s): “The Intimidator”
Quick Fact #1: Dale Earnhardt was born on 29 April 1951 in the small town of Kannapolis, North Carolina. He was the third child of Ralph and Martha Earnhardt. Earnhardt grew up in a racing family; his father was largely considered one of the best short-track drivers in the area. Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, young Earnhardt dropped out of school at an early age to pursue auto racing. Earnhardt also had four siblings, which included Danny, Randy, Cathy, and Kaye.
Quick Fact #2: Dale Earnhardt made his NASCAR career debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina (1975). Driving the #8 Ed Niegre Dodge Charger, Dale finished twenty-second in the race. Following his debut, Earnhardt competed in eight additional races until 1979.
Quick Fact #3: After joining owner “Rod Osterlund Racing,” Earnhardt one his first race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Throughout the rest of his season, Earnhardt managed to capture four poles, finished in the top five (eleven times), and finished in the top ten (seventeen times). Overall, Earnhardt completed his first official season of NASCAR in seventh place, and won “Rookie of the Year” honors. The following season, Dale clinched numerous wins, and won first place in the Winston Cup Championship. He remains the only drive in NASCAR history to win a national championship following a “Rookie of the Year” title from the prior season.
Quick Fact #4: In 1984, Earnhardt teamed up with Richard Childress Racing, and replaced Ricky Rudd and his #3 car. Both Rudd and Earnhardt earned sponsors from Wrangler. Between 1984 and 1985, Earnhardt managed to win six races at Talladega, Atlanta, Richmond, Bristol (on two separate occasions), and Martinsville raceway. He finished both seasons in fourth and eighth place, respectively. 1986 proved to be a monumental year for Earnhardt, however, as he managed to win his second Winston Cup Championship. In 1987, Earnhardt managed to once again win the Winston Cup, making it his third altogether. It was during this same year that Earnhardt earned his nickname, “The Intimidator,” due to his aggressive driving style.
Quick Fact #5: During the 1988 season, Earnhardt gained a new sponsor, GM Goodwrench. Earnhardt stayed with this new sponsor for the remained of his racing career. Only a couple of years later (1990), Earnhardt once again secured a Winston Cup Championship (his fourth), beating out Mark Martin by only twenty-six points. In 1991, 1993, and 1994 Earnhardt did the unthinkable; securing a fifth, sixth, and seventh Winston Cup Championship, and tying racing legend, Richard Petty, with overall championship wins.
Quick Fact #6: After several years of exciting victories (most notably the 1998 Daytona 500 Win), the racing legend’s life was cut short on 18 February 2001 after Earnhardt was involved in a three-car crash at the Daytona 500. After colliding with Ken Schrader and Sterling Marlin, Earnhardt’s car struck the outer wall of turn three and four. At the age of forty-nine, Earnhardt was pronounced dead at Halifax Medical Center. During the crash, autopsy reports indicate that Earnhardt died immediately upon impact due to blunt force trauma to his head. On 22 February 2001, Earnhardt was laid to rest at the Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Following his death, NASCAR began an extensive review of the safety mechanisms in place for their drivers; making substantial overhauls to seatbelts and requiring the use of the HANS device (to secure the driver’s head during accidents).
Fun Fact #1: Following the death of Dale Earnhardt, the #3 car was officially retired from racing until the 2014 season. Kevin Harvick was named by Richard Childress as Earnhardt’s replacement, but drove under the banner of the #29 car.
Fun Fact #2: Dale Earnhardt has multiple roads named after him. A street in Kannapolis,, North Carolina (his hometown) currently bears the name “Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.”
Fun Fact #3: Despite many tries, Earnhardt was able to secure victory at the Daytona 500 only once in his career.
Fun Fact #4: Earnhardt first earned his nickname “The Intimidator” during the 1987 All-Star Race in Charlotte, North Carolina during this famous “Pass in the Grass” moment. This title was extremely fitting for Earnhardt who became well-known for his aggressive driving that none could match.
“It’s a never ending battle of making your cars better and also trying to be better yourself.”— Dale Earnhardt
Quotes by Dale Earnhardt
Quote #1: “It’s a never ending battle of making your cars better and also trying to be better yourself.”
Quote #2: “Finishing races is important, but racing is more important.”
Quote #3: “You’ve got to be closer to the edge than ever to win. That means sometimes you go over the edge, and I don’t mean driving, either.”
Quote #4: “You win some, lose some, and wreck some.”
Quote #5: “When he was young, I told Dale Jr. that hunting and racing are a lot alike. Holding that steering wheel and holding that rifle both mean you better be responsible.”
Quote #6: “Second place is just the first place loser.”
Quote #7: “Two of my favorite things are my steering wheel and my Remington rifle.”
Quote #8: “I woke up this morning, and I still don’t believe I won the Daytona 500.”
Quote #9: “To come in and win three races already this year and maybe set a record by winning four is pretty unique. But guys like Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and these guys are not wanting that to happen.”
Quote #10: “I’ve had confidence in myself all along. It was just a matter of getting the pieces back in place.”
Throughout your own lifetime, were you able to witness any of Dale Earnhardt's major victories?
In closing, Dale Earnhardt’s legend continues to live on in NASCAR. Earnhardt’s remarkable driving skill, techniques, and humor helped to shape the field of NASCAR as we know it today. His untimely death in 2001 is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies to befall American sports and entertainment in the twenty-first century. However, for the fans who grew up watching Earnhardt and his remarkable feats, his memory will forever live on in their hearts and minds.
29 April 1951
Dale Earnhardt is born in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
24 April 1975
Earnhardt participates in his first NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt wins his first NASCAR circuit race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt wins his first Winston Cup Championship.
Second Winston Cup Championship
Third Winston Cup Championship Win; Earns nickname, "The Intimidator"
Fourth Winston Cup Championship
Fifth Winston Cup Championship
Sixth Winston Cup Championship
Seventh Winston Cup Championship; ties Richard Petty for most career titles.
Earnhardt wins his first ever, Daytona 500
18 February 2001
Dale Earnhardt dies in wreck at Daytona Motor Speedway.
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Busbee, Jay. Earnhardt Nation: The Full-Throttle Saga of NASCAR's First Family. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2016.
Earnhardt Jr., Dale. Racing to the Finish: My Story. Nashville, Tennessee. W. Publishing, 2018.
Gillispie, Tom. Angel in Black: Remembering Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr. Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House Publishing Inc., 2008.
Wikipedia contributors, "Dale Earnhardt," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dale_Earnhardt&oldid=887968131 (accessed March 16, 2019).
© 2019 Larry Slawson