Throughout its history it has been marred by accidents that have killed drivers, crew members, officials and even spectators. In the early years deaths were numerous and frequent. Now with improved technology and stringent safety regulations these have been significantly reduced. Even today, accidents spark off an outcry for greater safety measures.
In February 2001, Dale Earnhardt Sr, a seven times NASCAR champion, was killed during the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. He was the fourth driver to be killed since May of the previous year. Earnhardt's death was the 27th in the history of the track, which opened with the inaugural Speedweeks in 1959. The hue and cry that followed prompted NASCAR to introduce a whole new set of safety reforms.
On that fateful day, Earnhardt Sr. was one of the top three in the final lap when his car slammed into a retaining wall at about 160 mph, killing him immediately. Earnhardt’s death which sparked off widespread media attention was the catalyst for ongoing change that continues today.
Some other known recent names that honor the death rolls of NASCAR racing are Alan Kulwicki, Neil Bonnett, Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Hamilton, Benny Parsons, Grant Adcox, Tim Richmond, Bill France Jr., T. Wayne Robertson, Ralph Seagraves, Kenny Irwin Jr., Adam Petty, Bruce Jacobi, J. D. McDuffie, Mark Donohue, Bobby Isaac, Harry Hyde. To date since the first NASCAR race in 1949, it is believed there have been over 60 driver’s deaths.
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