Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was a racecar driver and team owner who had a net worth of $70 million dollars at the time of his death in 2001. Dale Earnhardt raced from 1975 to 2001 in the NASCAR Cup Series. Over the course of his career, he won a total of 76 Cup races, and earned seven Cup championships. In 2001, Earnhardt was killed in a last-lap crash during the Daytona 500, leading to safety improvements in future car racing events.
His son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is one of the most successful NASCAR drivers of all time. At his peak, Dale Jr, earned over $20 million every year. He has a net worth of $300 million.
Early Life and Career Beginnings
Dale Earnhardt was born in 1951 in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the third child of Martha and Ralph. His father, who was a top short-track driver in the state, won the NASCAR Sportsman Championship in 1956. At the age of 12, Earnhardt covertly drove his father’s car in one of his races. Despite his father’s protests, Earnhardt dropped out of school to pursue his career as a race car driver. Tragedy struck in 1973, when his father passed away from a heart attack.
Earnhardt started his professional career in 1975 at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, and competed in eight more races up until 1979.
Early NASCAR Career Successes
In 1979, Earnhardt joined Rod Osterlund Racing; in his rookie season, he won a race at Bristol, scored 11 top fives and 17 top tens, and finished seventh in the points standings. As a result, he was honored as Rookie of the Year. The next season, Earnhardt won a number of races, including the Busch Clash, and had his first Winston Cup Championship victory. In the process, he became the only driver in NASCAR history to follow a Rookie of the Year title with a NASCAR Cup Championship the very next year.
Earnhardt left Rod Osterlund Racing in 1981, and joined Bud Moore Engineering for two years. He struggled in 1982, but won at Nashville and Talladega in 1983. Following this, Earnhardt returned to Richard Childress Racing, winning a number of races. In 1986, he won his second Winston Cup Championship; the next year, he successfully defended his title by winning over Bill Elliott by 489 points.
NASCAR in the 90s
Beginning the 1990 season, Earnhardt won both the Busch Clash and his heat of the Gatorade Twin 125’s. He went on to finish with nine race victories and a fourth Winston Cup title. In 1991, he once again defended his title by winning another Winston Cup. The next season was less successful, as Earnhardt scored only one win, in the Coca-Cola 600. Later, in 1994, he came roaring back with another Winston Cup Championship title, winning over Mark Martin by more than 400 points. Although Earnhardt was unable to win the Championship again the next year, he still emerged victorious at five races, including the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a win he has called the biggest of his career.
In 1996, a major crash at the DieHard 500 saw Earnhardt’s car hit the wall head-on at nearly 200 mph, causing it to flip and slide across the track. This and a previous, similar incident led to NASCAR mandating the “Earnhardt Bar,” a metal reinforcing brace in the center of the windshield. Although he suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder blade, and sternum, Earnhardt continued to race over the following weeks, finishing fourth in the standings for the season. In 1998, he had one of his greatest victories when he finally won the Daytona 500 on his 20th attempt. The next year, he swept Talladega and had a controversial win at the Bristol night race, during which he accidentally bumped into and spun the car of leader Terry Labonte.
Final Racing Years and Death
Earnhardt experienced two of his most exciting races in 2000, first winning by only 0.010 seconds in Atlanta, and then gaining 17 positions in the final four laps to emerge victorious at Talladega. However, he was ultimately unable to win another championship title. Tragically, the 2001 season was the last for Earnhardt. In February at the Daytona 500, he was killed in a three-car crash during the final lap of the race. His and Ken Schrader’s cars collided, both sliding off the track and banking into the infield grass.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, NASCAR implemented more rigorous safety protocols, including the mandating of a head restraint known as HANS. Earnhardt’s remains are interred at his estate in Mooresville, North Carolina.
At the age of 17 in 1968, Earnhardt married his first wife, Latane Brown; together, they had a son, Kerry, and divorced in 1970. The next year, Earnhardt wed Brenda Gee, the daughter of car builder Robert Gee. The couple had two children, Kelley and Dale Jr., and got divorced in 1974. In 1982, Earnhardt married his third and final wife, Teresa Houston; their daughter, Taylor, was born in 1988.
Earnhardt continues to exert a lasting legacy. Several roads are named after him in his home state of North Carolina, as well as in Texas. In 2002, he was posthumously inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, and in 2006, was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The following year, the Dale Earnhardt Foundation and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. partnered to fund an annual undergraduate scholarship at Clemson University for students involved in automotive engineering and motorsports.
In 2010, the Intimidator 305 roller coaster, named after Earnhardt, opened at the Kings Dominion amusement park in Doswell, Virginia. The coaster’s trains are modeled after Earnhardt’s iconic black-and-red Chevrolet.
|Net Worth:||$70 Million|
|Date of Birth:||Apr 29, 1951 – Feb 18, 2001 (49 years old)|
|Height:||6 ft (1.85 m)|
|Profession:||Race car driver|
|Nationality:||United States of America|