Ebene News – US – Memories of the day we lost NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt

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On the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr’s death in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, JIM UTTER looks back on his memories of NASCAR’s darkest weekend

I’m not sure what surprises me the most – it’s been 20 years since Dale Earnhardt died or I’ve been covering NASCAR racing even longer than that. So much has happened in NASCAR since I started in April 1998 that it is often difficult to remember many details about a particular race weekend

Of course, I’ll remember who won a race, or a particularly bad wreck or sometimes it’s something totally offbeat, like the giant Tropicana Orange who raced the track at Chicagoland Speedway in 2004 during ‘a qualifying session But I – and I’m sure everyone who was there – remember that fateful day at Daytona International Speedway so much more.

This was only the third time I covered the Daytona 500 for The Charlotte Observer At the time, The Observer had two beat writers who covered NASCAR and usually sent at least one photographer and one columnist for the weekend. from 500

I remember going on the track that year with a lot of anticipation On the one hand, Dodge was returning to the Cup Series for the first time in 16 years and its drivers had swept the front row in 500 qualifying. , with Bill Elliott on pole

It was also the first race for NASCAR’s new $ 2 4 billion TV show over six years Having not covered NASCAR for very long, it was hard for me to fully understand how this deal would change things, but it seemed like everyone i spoke to leading up to the 500 that year thought it could be a monumental turning point

There were other stories that created the buzz as well – like Michael Waltrip winning a new full-time Cup round with the DEI team of Earnhardt, Kurt Busch moving to the Trucks Cup with Roush Racing and it was the first season since 1971 without three-time NASCAR field champion Darrell Waltrip as he settled into the Fox Sports broadcast booth

In the days leading up to the 500, I remember attending a very elaborate press function at a hotel on the beach in which Kevin Harvick – then second-tier Busch series driver – was introduced as future teammate of Richard Childress Cup Series racing drivers Earnhardt Sr and Mike Skinner Harvick was scheduled to run a handful of races in 2001, then become the full-time driver of RCR’s # 30 Chevrolet in 2002

The day of the race was hot and windy, with no bad weather delaying the event The Dodges of Sterling Marlin (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Ward Burton (Bill Davis Racing) clearly had two of the fastest cars , but Burton was caught in a massive crash on lap 173 which gathered nearly 20 cars and sent out driver Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac Tony Stewart at nearby Halifax Medical Center after falling onto his back

As the race drew to a close, the DEI Chevrolets of Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr had come in front, with Earnhardt Sr’s RCR machine in third, desperately trying to push the peloton back, led by Marlin and Ken Schrader (MB2 Pontiac)

At the end of the race, I braced myself from my post at the multimedia center on the field to the pitroad and garage at the end of the race, with thoughts on the many interesting scenarios that filled me. head It was while waiting on the pitroad that I saw the wreckage of the last lap near turn 4 involving two cars – one of which I recognized as Schrader’s – while in front, Waltrip took the flag at checkered pattern for his very first Cup victory (at the 462nd attempt), with Earnhardt Jr and Rusty Wallace’s Ford smashed behind

TV reruns showed a heavy blow to “The Intimidator” but, in my relatively brief experience at the time, I had covered much more vicious wrecks – including three fatal NASCAR crashes the previous year I didn’t think at first that there was anything particularly serious about this one, but, during my short time as a motorsport journalist, I had learned that nothing speaks louder on a track. running as silence

The more people I saw after the race the quieter everyone seemed The drivers and crew didn’t seem sure what to say, or even to say anything No one was saying why – it seemed like everyone knew something was wrong

A phone call from my colleague David Poole, who worked in the press box in the gallery, let me know that Earnhardt Sr had not yet got out of his car and it appeared that security guards were going to release it It was definitely not a good sign so I went back to the media center on the ground and contacted sources to see if anyone had any idea how serious the situation was.

I had asked a friend of mine who worked with Stewart to check on his condition as he was taken to hospital after the previous wreck My contact called from the hospital and confirmed that Stewart would be fine , but revealed he was there when Earnhardt was brought to hospital and passed away

For about an hour, it seemed like no one knew what to do We all seemed to know what had happened, but until someone officially confirmed it, there was nothing we could do about it. Subject NASCAR officials had locked the entrance to the chain garage door immediately adjacent to the media center, where more and more members of the media appeared to be arriving People were just standing there, waiting, but didn’t know exactly what

Finally, NASCAR President Mike Helton arrived at the media center and addressed the crowd It was a short statement, but I will never forget his last words: “We have lost Dale Earnhardt” I remember vividly the stunned silence of the room and the way Helton’s voice broke as he spoke

The following hours were blurry.I don’t know when I finally got back to my car in the media parking lot that night, but I remember finding it particularly difficult to understand everything that had happened that day -the

It seemed like the dawn of a new era in NASCAR It turned out to be

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Dale Earnhardt

Ebene News – US – Memories of the day we lost NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt

Source: https://www.autosport.com/nascar/news/155104/memories-of-the-day-we-lost-dale-earnhardt