(Ralph) Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
(April 29, 1951 – February 18, 2001) was a race car driver, best known for his involvement in stock car racing for NASCAR
. Earnhardt began his career in 1975 when he drove in the 1975 as part of the Winston Cup Series (now the Sprint Cup Series).
Dale Earnhardt won 76 races in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in the years and his first in 1979 at Bristol and last win being at Talladega in 2000. The driver had won seven championships (tied with Richard Petty for the most).
In 2001, Dale Earnhardt was killed on a crash on the last lap at the Daytona 500.
Tropes commonly associated with Dale Earnhardt include:
- Anyone Can Die: Dale was probably one of the last drivers any one would have expected.
- Badass Driver: Dale got the nick name "The Intimidator" for his aggressive driving style. He was especially good on short tracks and super speedways. It was said on super speedways he could see the air of the draft.
- Cool Shades: He was often seen sporting aviator-style or sport-style sunglasses.
- Dead Drivers Are Better: Popular yet controversial in life. A mythic figure in death. (And the sport still hasn't filled the hole that he left.)
- Disappeared Dad: He lost his father to a heart attack when he was 22 and later become one himself.
- Every Year They Fizzle Out: For 19 years, despite all of his other successes, awards, championships, and wins in big races, Dale never could win THE biggest race of all - the Daytona 500. Not quite "fizzling out" since the Daytona 500 is actually the opening race of the season, but the trope still fits. Check out this list of near-misses before he finally won the race and broke "the curse" in 1998:
- 1986 - Ran out of gas 3 laps from the end while in the lead.
- 1990 - Blew a tire while in the lead with just half a lap to go.
- 1993 - Passed on the last lap by Dale Jarrett.
- 1995 - Moved up from 14th to 2nd in the final 13 laps but was unable to pass Sterling Marlin.
- 1996 - Passed with twenty laps to go, once again by Dale Jarrett.
- Making it all even weirder, Earnhardt didn't have bad luck at Daytona, just the Daytona 500. There are two Sprint Cup Series points races at Daytona every year, and the Daytona 500 is preceded by the Sprint Unlimited (non-points exhibition race for pole position winners from the previous season) and the Budweiser Duel qualifying races for the 500, as well as races in lower series like ARCA and Nationwide. Between all those, Earnhardt racked up 33 wins - but only one in the Daytona 500 itself. 30 were between the Shootout, the Gatorade Duels, and the lower series events in Speedweeks, and two were in the Pepsi 400, Daytona's summer Sprint Cup race.
- This could also be considered an example of Hatedom with the fans against each other.
- In a truly dark way, it's almost appropriate that the race that killed him was the Daytona 500...
- Fatal Method Acting: Of the "died while doing his job" variety.
- Flipping the Bird: Usually done with either a scowl or a mischievous grin on his face.
- Great White Hunter: When he wasn't in a race car or the garage, odds were high he was outdoors. He was an avid hunter and fisher, and sought out big game.
- Happily Married: With Theresa.
- Heroic Sacrifice: His death forced countless safety innovations straight through committee.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With fellow driver Neil Bonnett. Eerily, the spot where Dale died was in the same turn as the spot where Neil died during a practice session seven years before. He was also this with Richard Childress.
- Made of Iron: Not even a broken leg he suffered during a nasty wreck at Pocono in 1982 could keep him off the track.
- Married to the Job: In his early career, he was too hooked on racing to sustain a successful marriage, but admittedly, he had to be to win and thus put food on the table. By the time he married Theresa, he was in a much more stable position in his career.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Intimidator.
- Non-Indicative Name: Earnhardt's famous "pass in the grass" wasn't actually a pass - he was ahead and was preventing himself from being passed.
- Red Baron: The Intimidator. He was also known as The Man in Black after he picked up Goodwrench as a primary sponsor and his car got a black paint job. But Earnhardt wasn't literally a Man in Black, because he wore a white fire suit.
- Second Place Is for Losers: To the point where he once lost the 1989 championship because he wanted a chance to win a race. He was running second in the final race of year, and was set to win the season championship, but he made a risky pass for the lead near the end of the race and crashed, which cost him the championship and caused it to be handed to Rusty Wallace instead. Earnhardt had a saying "Second place is just the first loser" which he lived by. However there are many other variations that were more popular (Go big or go home, checkers or wreckers), some of which are still used today.
- So Proud of You: Take a look at some of the footage of Dale Jr.'s Busch (later Nationwide, now XFINITY) Series wins, and especially Junior's first Cup win at Texas in 2000.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Not that he wasn't close with his dad, but he wanted to make Ralph proud. Unfortunately, Ralph died before Dale got that chance.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: He was one of these by his own admission. He wasn't around much to see Kerry, Kelley, or Dale Jr. grow up because of his racing schedule (well, in Kerry's case, because he didn't have custody of him). He made a greater effort to be around more for Taylor, but unfortunately his untimely death cut that short.