Ralph Dale Earnhardt
April 29/51-Feb 18/01
For Dale Earnhardt, the race was never over. Back when he was winning everything in sight--11 races one year, nine in another--he would come home some nights mad as hell about something that somebody had done to him on the track. Squeezed him,bumped him, as if he would never do such things himself. And this was after a victory. Earnhardt had been a wild-child teenager, as reckless as they come and headed for nowhere, but he grew up to be his sport's father figure, Dad without the breaks, and a corporate titan to boot. He could regale a crowd of GM dealers with war stories for an hour--Mr. Charm--then shift gears in a heartbeat, chiding drivers who wanted to slow the cars down as "candy asses." He made tens of millions of dollars racing and tens of millions more running Dale Earnhardt Inc., but even at 49, a man of considerable responsibilities and with nothing left to prove, he would never take his foot off the gas. That is why they loved him. Ironhead, the Intimidator, Earnhardt: he had massive, irresistible appeal. He brought fans into the sport who wouldn't know NASCAR from NASA. He was the rebel soul of a sport that had gone corporate. What roiled inside him usually came out,sometimes in fits of temper or unruly behavior behind the wheel. Whenever a race started, you wondered what Dale Earnhardt might do today. At Daytona Beach, Fla., February 18,2001, it was an Earnhardt kind of day: contradictions everywhere. It was going to be a triumphal afternoon, with a huge network audience watching, the ultimate proof, as if anyone needed it, that NASCAR was nationwide. Yet the sissies had won too, and rules were in place to slow the cars, but the changes seemed to be making the racing more dangerous. An earlier crash looked like an Armageddon of a wreck: 19 cars careering around, smashing into one another, Tony Stewart's Pontiac soaring through the air, ripping the hood off another car, metal clanging, a 16-minute red flag to clean up the mess--and only abum shoulder, Stewart's, as a result. Then on the last turn of the last lap, Earnhardt's famous black No. 3 Chevy Monte Carlo plowed--thud--into the wall and drifted back out, nose smashed. No fire, no catapulting frames. Ironhead had walked away from stuff that looked a lot worse than this. "No one ever expected Dale Earnhardt to die in a race car," said Max Helton, a NASCAR chaplain.
1951 - Born "Ralph Dale Earnhardt" April 29 in Kannapolis, N.C., to Ralph and Martha Earnhardt.
Dale Earnhardt has four brothers and sisters:
Kaye, born in 1948
Kathy, born in 1950
Randy, born in 1952
Danny, born in 1955
1968 - Marries first wife, Latane Key.
1969 - First son Kerry, is born Dec.8.
1970 - Divorces Latane Key.
1971 - Marries second wife, Brenda Gee.
1972 - Second child, daughter Kelley, is born Aug. 28.
1973 - Ralph Earnhardt, 45, dies of a heart attack Sept. 26 while working on his race car.
1974 - Earnhardt's third child, son Dale Jr. is born Oct. 10.
1975 - Makes his Winston Cup debut in a Dodge for Ed Negre in the May 25th World 600 atCharlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt starts 33rd and finishes 22nd, just one spot ahead of his future owner Richard Childress.
1977 - Divorces Brenda Gee.
1979 - Gets a full-time ride with car owner Rod Osterlund; scores first Winston Cup victory April 1 at Bristol Motor Speedway in his 16th attempt; fractures collarbone after crashing at Pocono Raceway on July 30; wins Winston Cup Rookie of the year; wins first career pole at Riverside on June 8 in his 24th career attempt.
1980 - Wins five races; captures Winston Cup championship, becoming the first and only driver to win rookies honors and the points championship back-to-back; claims first superspeedway win (Atlanta) in 41st career start.
1981 - Upset when Osterlund sells his race team to Jim Stacy; Earnhardt leaves the team after four races with Stacy; joins car owner Richard Childress on Aug. 2 for 11 races; hits $1 million mark in 76th career start.
1982 - Signs with Bud Moore Engineering; he wins just one race (Darlington, S.C.), April 4th; on Aug. 1st he fractures his knee in a crash at Talladega Superspeedway; marries third wife Teresa on Nov. 14th.
1983 - Second year with car owner Bud Moore; wins two races.
1984 - Rejoins Richard Childress Racing; takes the No 3 permanently for his car number; wins two races.
1985 - Wins four races with RCR.
1986 - Captures second Winston Cup championship; scores five victories; runs out of gas in the closing laps of the Daytona 500 while running second.
1987 - Wins third Winston Cup championship; scores 11 victories; wins the Winston all-star race with infamous "pass in the grass" around Bill Elliott.
1988 - Wins three races; Earnhardt's fourth child, daughter Taylor, is born Dec. 20; sponsorship changes from Wrangler to GM Goodwrench.
1989 - Wins five races, including the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway the day after his father, Ralph, is inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.
1990 - Captures fourth Winston Cup title; wins nine races; earns a record $3 million in prize money; leads the Daytona 500 with less than a mile to go but his right reer tire blows in turn 3 to deny him victory.
1991 - Wins fifth Winston Cup title; wins four races; crashes with Davey Allison onLap 198 in the Daytona 500.
1992 - one race victory; finishes 12th in points, tying the worst finish of his career.
1993 - Rebounds with his sixth Winston Cup title; scores six wins, including the first night race a Charlotte Motor Speedway May 30; tops his own record, winning $3.3 million in prize money; Dale Jarrett pases him on the last lap of the Daytona 500 for the win.
1994 - Wins four races; captures seventh Winston Cup title, tying him with Richard Petty on the all-time list, finishing 444 points ahead of secon-place Mark Martin; tops $3 million mark for the third time in five years.
1995 - Wins five races; finishes just 34 points behind Jeff Gordon to finish second in the points championship race.
1996 - Wins pole for Daytona 500 but finishes in second place; captures two wins; breakes his collarbone and sternum in a horrific crash at Talladega Superspeedway; for the first time in his career, Earnhardt asks for a relief friver during the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis; becomes third driver to achieve 500 consecutive Winston Cup starts July 21.
1997 - Has no wins, first time he goes a season without a victory since 1981; his car flips in the final laps at Daytona 500, but gets back in his car and finishes the race; becomes first driver to reach $30 million in career earnings; First driver to appear on the front of the Wheaties cereal box.
1998 - Remains with RCR but starts his own Winston Cup team, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and hires Steve Park to drive his No 1 Chevrolet; on Feb. 15, in his 20th attempt, he wins the Daytona 500 for the first time, his only win of the of the season; sets Winston Cup record for finishing 53 consecutive races; makes 600th career start; finishes eighth in the points standing, marking his 18th top-10 finish of his 20-year career.
1999 - Dale Jr. competes infirst IROC event at Daytona, making it the first time the father and son race each other in the U.S.; Dale Sr. wins three races; Dale Jr. makes his Winston Cup debut in a Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet on May 30th.
2000 - In his 22nd season, scores his 34th win at Daytona in the IROC event, wins two cup races, including his last victory at Talladega when he started 18th on a restart and went to the front in five laps to claim his 76th career victory; wins his first three races as a car owner when Dale Jr. wins two races (his first career win is at Texas Motor Speedway) and Steve Park wins atWatkins Glen International; Dale Sr. competes against sons Kerry and Dale jr., the first time in the NASCAR "Modern Era" that a father has raced against two sons; finishes second in points standings, making it the 20th time he finishes in the top 10; achieves a career-high $5.8 million in season earnings, upping career winnings to $41.7 million.
2001 - Introduces third DEI Winston Cup team with driver Michael Waltrip; starts third in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500; leads the race several times; on the last lap, Dale Earnhardt becomes a blocker as Dale Jr. pushes Waltrip to the checkered flag; Dale Earnhardt hits the wall in turn 4, after being hit by Sterling Marlin, and dies from a basilar skull fracture.