Ralph Dale Earnhardt Sr. (born April 29, 1951), known professionally as Dale Earnhardt, was an American professional stock car racing driver and is a current team owner, best known for his involvement in stock car racing for NASCAR. The third child of racing driver Ralph Earnhardt and first of two to Martha Coleman, he began his career in 1975 in the World 600 as part of the Winston Cup Series.
Regarded as one of the most significant drivers in NASCAR history, Earnhardt won a total of 108 Winston Cup races over the course of his career, including the 1998, 2002 and 2003 Daytona 500s; this makes him second only to Richard Petty and slightly ahead of former second place David Pearson in terms of wins. He also earned eight NASCAR Winston Cup championships, surpassing for the most all-time from Richard Petty. This feat, accomplished in 2001, was not equaled again. His aggressive driving style earned him the nicknames "The Intimidator" and "The Count of Monte Carlo". Earnhardt has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the NASCAR Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2010.
Earnhardt had German ancestry. He was born on April 29, 1951, in Kannapolis, North Carolina, as the third child of Martha (Coleman) and Ralph Earnhardt. Earnhardt's father was then one of the best short-track drivers in North Carolina and won his first and only NASCAR Sportsman Championship in 1956 at Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina. Although Ralph did not want his son to pursue a career as a race car driver, Dale dropped out of school to pursue his dreams. Ralph was a hard teacher for Dale, and after Ralph died of a heart attack at his home in 1973 at age 45, it took many years before Dale felt as though he had finally "proven" himself to his father. Earnhardt has four siblings: two brothers, Danny and Randy (died 2013); and two sisters, Cathy and Kaye. In 1968, at the age of 17, Earnhardt married his first wife, Latane Brown. With her, Earnhardt fathered his first son, Kerry, a year later. Dale and Latane divorced in 1970. In 1971, Earnhardt married his second wife, Brenda Gee, the daughter of NASCAR car builder Robert Gee. In his marriage with Gee, Earnhardt had two more children: a daughter, Kelley King Earnhardt, in 1972, and a son, Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr., in 1974. Not long after Dale Jr. was born, Earnhardt and Gee divorced. Earnhardt then married his third and final wife, Teresa Houston (Tommy Houston's niece), in 1982. She gave birth to their daughter, Taylor Nicole Earnhardt, in 1988. Taylor and her husband, Brandon Putnam, are professional rodeo performers.
Early Winston Cup career (1975–1978)
Earnhardt began his professional career in the Winston Cup in 1975, making his debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina in the longest race on the Cup circuit—the 1975 World 600. He drove the No. 8 Ed Niegre Dodge Charger and finished 22nd in that race, just one spot ahead of his future car owner, Richard Childress. Earnhardt competed in eight more races until 1979.
Rod Osterlund Racing (1979–1980)
When he joined car owner Rod Osterlund Racing in a season that included a rookie class of future stars including Earnhardt, Harry Gant, and Terry Labonte in his rookie season, Earnhardt won one race at Bristol, captured four poles, scored eleven Top 5's and seventeen Top 10's, and finished seventh in the points standings despite missing four races due to a broken collarbone, winning Rookie of the Year honors. During his sophomore season, Earnhardt, now with 20-year-old Doug Richert as his crew chief, began the season winning the Busch Clash. With wins at Atlanta, Bristol, Nashville, Martinsville, and Charlotte, Earnhardt won his first Winston Cup points championship. He is the only driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to follow a Rookie of the Year title with a NASCAR Winston Cup Championship the next season. He was also the third driver in NASCAR history to win both the Rookie of the Year and Cup Series championship, following David Pearson (1960, 1966) and Richard Petty (1959, 1964). Only seven drivers have joined this exclusive club since: Rusty Wallace (1984, 1989), Alan Kulwicki (1986, 1992), Jeff Gordon (1993, 1995), Tony Stewart (1999, 2002), Matt Kenseth (2000, 2003), Kevin Harvick (2002, 2014), and Kyle Larson (2014, 2016).
Rod Osterlund Racing, Stacy Racing, and Richard Childress Racing (1981)
In 1981, after Osterlund sold his team to J. D. Stacy, Earnhardt left for Richard Childress Racing and finished the season seventh in the points standings but winless.
Bud Moore Engineering (1982–1983)
The following year, at Childress's suggestion, Earnhardt joined car owner Bud Moore for the 1982 and 1983 seasons driving the No. 15 Wrangler Jeans-sponsored Ford Thunderbird (the only full-time Ford ride in his career). During the 1982 season, Earnhardt struggled. Although he won at Darlington, he failed to finish 15 races and completed the season 12th in points, the worst of his career. He also suffered a broken kneecap at Pocono Raceway when he flipped after contact with Tim Richmond. In 1983, Earnhardt rebounded and won his first of 12 Twin 125 Daytona 500 qualifying races. He won at Nashville and at Talladega, finishing eighth in the points standings.
Return to Richard Childress Racing (1984–2003)
After the 1983 season, Earnhardt returned to Richard Childress Racing, replacing Ricky Rudd in the No. 3. Rudd went to Bud Moore's No. 15, replacing Earnhardt. Wrangler sponsored both drivers at their respective teams. During the 1984 and 1985 seasons, Earnhardt went to victory lane six times, at Talladega, Atlanta, Richmond, Bristol (twice), and Martinsville, where he finished fourth and eighth in the season standings respectively.
The 1986 season saw Earnhardt win his second career Winston Cup Championship and the first owner's championship for RCR. He won five races and had ten Top 5's and sixteen Top 10's. Earnhardt successfully defended his championship the following year, going to victory lane eleven times and winning the championship by 489 points over Bill Elliott. In the process, Earnhardt set a NASCAR modern era record of four consecutive wins and won five of the first seven races. In the 1987 season, he earned the nickname "The Intimidator", and his final season for the blue and yellow Wrangler Jeans sponsorship. Earnhardt also won for the first time at The Winston. During this race, Earnhardt was briefly forced into the infield grass but kept control of his car and returned to the track without giving up his lead. The maneuver is now referred to as the "Pass in the Grass", even though Earnhardt did not pass anyone while he was off the track.
The 1988 season saw Earnhardt racing with a new sponsor, GM Goodwrench, after Wrangler Jeans dropped its sponsorship in 1987. During this season, he changed the color of his paint scheme from blue and yellow to black, in which the No. 3 car was painted. He won three races in 1988, finishing third in the points standings behind Bill Elliott in first and Rusty Wallace in second. The following year, Earnhardt won five races, but a late spin out at North Wilkesboro arguably cost him the 1989 championship, as Rusty Wallace edged him out for it. It was his first season for the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Lumina.
The 1990 season started for Earnhardt with victories in the Busch Clash and his heat of the Gatorade Twin 125's. Near the end of the Daytona 500, he had a dominant forty-second lead when the final caution flag came out with a handful of laps to go. When the green flag waved, Earnhardt was leading Derrike Cope. On the final lap, Earnhardt ran over a piece of metal, which was later revealed as a bell housing, in turn 4, cutting down a tire. Cope, in an upset, won the race while Earnhardt finished fifth after leading 155 of the 200 laps. The No. 3 Goodwrench-sponsored Chevy team took the flat tire that cost them the win and hung it on the shop wall as a reminder of how close they had come to winning the Daytona 500. Earnhardt won nine races that season and won his fourth Winston Cup title, beating Mark Martin by 26 points. He also became the first multiple winner of the annual all-star race, The Winston.
The 1991 season saw Earnhardt win his fifth Winston Cup championship. This season, he scored four wins and won the championship by 195 points over Ricky Rudd. One of his wins came at North Wilkesboro, in a race where Harry Gant had a chance to set a single-season record by winning his fifth consecutive race, breaking a record held by Earnhardt. Late in the race, Gant lost his brakes, which gave Earnhardt the chance he needed to make the pass for the win and maintain his record.
Earnhardt's only win of the 1992 season came at Charlotte, in the Coca-Cola 600, ending a 13-race win streak by Ford teams. Earnhardt finished a career-low 12th in the points for the second time in his career, and the only time he had finished that low since joining RCR. He still made the trip to the annual Awards Banquet with Rusty Wallace but did not have the best seat in the house. Wallace stated he and Earnhardt had to sit on the backs of their chairs to see, and Earnhardt said, "This sucks, I could have gone hunting." At the end of the year, longtime crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine left to become a driver. Andy Petree took over as crew chief.
Hiring Petree turned out to be beneficial, as Earnhardt returned to the front in 1993. He once again came close to a win at the Daytona 500 and dominated Speedweeks before finishing second to Dale Jarrett on a last-lap pass. Earnhardt scored six wins en route to his sixth Winston Cup title, including wins in the first prime-time Coca-Cola 600 and The Winston both at Charlotte, and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. He beat Rusty Wallace for the championship by 80 points. On November 14, 1993, after the Hooters 500 (Atlanta), the last race of that season, the race winner Wallace and 1993 series champion Dale Earnhardt ran a Polish Victory Lap together while carrying #28 and #7 flags commemorating Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, both drivers died during the season, respectively.
In 1994, Earnhardt achieved a feat that he himself had believed to be impossible—he scored his seventh Winston Cup championship, tying Richard Petty. He was very consistent, scoring four wins, and after Ernie Irvan was sidelined due to a near-deadly crash at Michigan (the two were neck-and-neck at the top of the points up until the crash), won the title by over 400 points over Mark Martin. Earnhardt sealed the deal at Rockingham by winning the race over Rick Mast. It was his 7th NASCAR championship and his final season for the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Lumina.
Earnhardt started off the 1995 season by finishing second in the Daytona 500 to Sterling Marlin. He won five races in 1995, including his first road course victory at Sears Point. He also won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a win he called the biggest of his career. But in the end, Earnhardt lost the championship to Jeff Gordon by 34 points. The GM Goodwrench racing team changed to Chevrolet Monte Carlos.
1996 for Earnhardt started just like it had done in 1993—he dominated Speedweeks, only to finish second in the Daytona 500 to Dale Jarrett for the second time. He won early in the year, scoring consecutive victories at Rockingham and Atlanta. In late July in the DieHard 500 at Talladega, he was in the points lead and looking for his eighth season title, despite the departure of crew chief Andy Petree. Late in the race, Ernie Irvan lost control of his No. 28 Havoline-sponsored Ford Thunderbird, made contact with the No. 4 Kodak-sponsored Chevy Monte Carlo of Sterling Marlin, and ignited a crash that saw Earnhardt's No. 3 Chevrolet hit the tri-oval wall nearly head-on at almost 200 mph. After hitting the wall, Earnhardt's car flipped and slid across the track, in front of race-traffic. His car was hit in the roof and windshield. This accident, as well as a similar accident that led to the death of Russell Phillips at Charlotte, led NASCAR to mandate the "Earnhardt Bar", a metal brace located in the center of the windshield that reinforces the roof in case of a similar crash. This bar is also required in NASCAR-owned United SportsCar Racing and its predecessors for road racing.
Rain delays had canceled the live telecast of the race, and most fans first learned of the accident during the night's sports newscasts. Video of the crash showed what appeared to be a fatal incident, but once medical workers arrived at the car, Earnhardt climbed out and waved to the crowd, refusing to be loaded onto a stretcher despite a broken collarbone, sternum, and shoulder blade. Many thought the incident would end his season early, but Earnhardt refused to give up. The next week at Indianapolis, he started the race but exited the car on the first pit stop, allowing Mike Skinner to take the wheel. When asked, Earnhardt said that vacating the No. 3 car was the hardest thing he had ever done. The following weekend at Watkins Glen, he drove the No. 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet to the fastest time in qualifying, earning the "True Grit" pole. T-shirts emblazoned with Earnhardt's face were quickly printed up, brandishing the caption, "It Hurt So Good". Earnhardt led for most of the race and looked to have victory in hand, but fatigue took its toll and he ended up sixth behind race winner Geoff Bodine. Earnhardt did not win again in 1996 but still finished fourth in the standings behind Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Jarrett. David Smith departed as crew chief of the No. 3 team and RCR at the end of the year for personal reasons, andhe was replaced by Larry McReynolds.
In 1997, Earnhardt went winless for only the second time in his career. The only (non-points) win came during Speedweeks at Daytona in the Twin 125-mile qualifying race, his record eighth-straight win in the event. Once again in the hunt for the Daytona 500 with 10 laps to go, Earnhardt was taken out of contention by a late crash which sent his car upside down on the backstretch. He hit the low point of his year when he blacked out early in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington in September, causing him to hit the wall. Afterward, he was disoriented, and it took several laps before he could find his pit stall. When asked, Earnhardt complained of double vision which made it difficult to pit. Mike Dillon (Richard Childress's son-in-law) was brought in to relieve Earnhardt for the remainder of the race. Earnhardt was evaluated at a local hospital and cleared to race the next week, but the cause of the blackout and double vision was never determined. Despite no wins, the RCR team finished the season fifth in the final standings.
1998 saw Earnhardt finally win the Daytona 500 in his 20th attempt after being shut out in his previous 19 attempts. He began the season by winning his Twin 125-mile qualifier race for the ninth straight year, and the week before was the first to drive around the track under the newly installed lights, for coincidentally 20 times. On race day, he showed himself to be a contender early. Halfway through the race, however, it seemed that Jeff Gordon had the upper hand. But by lap 138, Earnhardt had taken the lead and thanks to a push by teammate Mike Skinner, he maintained it. Earnhardt made it to the caution-checkered flag before Bobby Labonte. Afterwards, there was a large show of respect for Earnhardt, in which every crew member of every team lined pit road to shake his hand as he made his way to victory lane. Earnhardt then drove his No. 3 into the infield grass, starting a trend of post-race celebrations. He spun the car twice, throwing grass and leaving tire tracks in the shape of a No. 3 in the grass. He then spoke about the victory, saying, "I have had a lot of great fans and people behind me all through the years and I just can't thank them enough. The Daytona 500 is ours. We won it, we won it, we won it!" The rest of the season did not go as well, and the 500 was his only victory that year. Despite that, he did almost pull off a Daytona sweep, where he was one of the dominant ones to win the first nighttime Pepsi 400, but a pit stop late in the race in which he caught a rogue tire like a hockey puck cost him the race win. He slipped to 12th in the point standings halfway through the season, and Richard Childress decided to make a crew chief change, taking Mike Skinner's crew chief Kevin Hamlin and putting him with Earnhardt while giving Skinner Larry McReynolds (Earnhardt's crew chief). Earnhardt finished eighth in the final standings.
Before the 1999 season, fans began discussing Earnhardt's age and speculating that with his son, Dale Jr., making his Winston Cup debut, Earnhardt might be contemplating retirement. Earnhardt swept both races for the year at Talladega, leading some to conclude that his talent had become limited to the restrictor plate tracks, which require a unique skill set and an exceptionally powerful racecar to win. But halfway through the year, Earnhardt began to show some of the old spark. In the August race at Michigan, he led laps late in the race and nearly pulled off his first win on a non-restrictor-plate track since 1996. One week later, he provided NASCAR with one of its most controversial moments. At the Bristol night race, Earnhardt found himself in contention to win his first short track race since Martinsville in 1995. When a caution came out with 15 laps to go, leader Terry Labonte got hit from behind by the lapped car of Darrell Waltrip. His spin put Earnhardt in the lead with five cars between him and Labonte with 5 laps to go. Labonte had four fresh tires, and Earnhardt was driving on old tires, which made Earnhardt's car considerably slower. Labonte caught Earnhardt and passed him coming to the white flag, but Earnhardt drove hard into turn two, bumping Labonte and spinning him around. Earnhardt collected the win while spectators booed and made obscene gestures. "I didn't mean to turn him around, I just wanted to rattle his cage," Earnhardt said of the incident. He finished seventh in the standings that year.
In the 2000 season, Earnhardt had a resurgence, which was commonly attributed to neck surgery he underwent to correct a lingering injury from his 1996 Talladega crash. He scored what were considered the two most exciting wins of the year—winning by 0.010 seconds over Bobby Labonte at Atlanta, then gaining seventeen positions in the final four laps to win at Talladega, claiming his only No Bull million-dollar bonus along with his record 10th win at the track. As part of a Winston No Bull 5 fan contest, Earnhardt drove a Bomb Lift Truck and attempted to load an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) missile as he competed in a load crew competition at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, September 2000. Earnhardt also had second-place runs at Richmond and Martinsville, tracks where he had struggled through the late 1990s. On the strength of those performances, Earnhardt got to second in the standings. However, poor performances at the road course of Watkins Glen, where he wrecked coming out of the chicane, a wreck with Kenny Irwin Jr. while leading the spring race at Bristol, and mid-pack runs at intermediate tracks like Charlotte and Dover in a season dominated by the Ford Taurus in those tracks from Roush, Yates, and Penske, coupled with Labonte's extreme consistency, denied Earnhardt an eighth championship title.
2001 was a big year for Earnhardt personally, and Earnhardt professionally, with his newest driver Michael Waltrip looking for his first win, with his son rising through the ranks and with him escaping the 2001 Daytona 500 wreck. The 2001 Daytona 500 already had a giant wreck at halfway that took out drivers, Tony Stewart (airborne, and rolling over the backstretch) and Jeff Gordon, among other drivers. on the last lap, Earnhardt was blocking for his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and friend Michael Waltrip. Going into Turn 4 on the last lap, Sterling Marlin was trying to pass Earnhardt, and hooked his car in the right rear panel, resulting in his car spinning in front of the whole field, and being hit by five different cars. The drivers that hit Dale were Sterling Marlin, Jeremy Mayfield, Rusty Wallace, Joe Nemechek and Ken Schrader. Dale's car ended up in the Turn 4 infield with extensive damage, including the whole front torn away, and almost no sheet metal left. Dale, having the wind knocked out of him, neededoxygen, but he was fine, as was everyone else involved.
Waltrip ended up winning the race, with Jr. finishing 2nd, Ricky Rudd in 3rd, Mike Wallace in 4th, and Bobby Hamilton in 5th. Dale, when asked in victory lane celebrating with Waltrip, said "Man, I'm glad he hooked me in the right, I felt the seat belts break the second I got hit the 5th time, If he had hit me in the left ... I may not be here talking to ya, and celebrating with my friend". Earnhardt Sr later spoke out against the lack of requiring the HANS device in NASCAR. "If I had hit that wall with how fast I was going, I probably would have been been hurt bad." Only a few weeks later, Dale Sr went on to win a caution-free race at Talladega Superspeedway, giving him 11 super speedway wins. He won the 2001 championship over Jeff Gordon. His All-Star Race scheme was a white car. He got a total of 13 wins that year. Earnhardt went to the illustrious New York banquet where the largest celebration in NASCAR history was held, after Earnhardt's big 8th championship made him hold the record for the most cups in NASCAR history.
The 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series found Dale Earnhardt winning the Budweiser Shootout, and the Daytona 500 for the second time of his career. Dale also won the 2002 July Pocono race, although the event was marked by tragedy. On the very first lap, DEI driver Steve Park lost his life in a wreck which started when Rusty Wallace slightly tapped his car. The wreck had him slide into the wall head on at full speed and violently flipped over teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jr. went over to Park's car to try and assist, but the second he got there, he ran towards the medics with the universal sign of Hurry. In Victory Lane afterwards, pit reporter Dave Burns announced that Park had succumbed to his injuries, while Sr said in tears, "This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen, Steve should be here, I warned NASCAR about the head on hits, and they didn't listen. Now they have blood on their hands". After this event, NASCAR launched a full investigation, and required the HANS device for the following race, out of caution, yet kept the open helmets. Four weeks after the wreck, NASCAR announced it was a lack of neck support and the open helmet that resulted in the fatality, and they were mandating the HANS device as of the next race in Bristol. The rest of the season was great for Earnhardt, winning ten more races, and finishing up 10th in points. At the last race of the 2002 season, Dale Earnhardt Sr announced he was retiring from full time driving after the 2003 season. His All-Star Race scheme was what would be a reverse of his 2003 scheme.
The 2003 season was another great year for Sr, with seven wins (including the Daytona 500) to pass David Pearson in wins, 22 top fives, and 30 top 15 finishes. His All-Star Race scheme was a car inspired by his 1979 scheme. In Dale's last race, in which he drove a scheme similar to an unused Goodwrench scheme designed in 1987 that he also ran in Rockingham, he started 25th, but led the pace laps as the pace car. His final race had him leading for 30 laps, but finished 29th, five laps down, after a wreck with 15 laps to go. Dale was racing for 5th place, when Kurt Busch bumped into his right rear corner, and sent him spinning. At the last moment, his car went airborne, and flipped over several times, with damage. His crew was able to get his car back onto the track for the final lap, but he finished 25th, 5 laps down. After this finish, The grandstand went wild, when the damaged 3 car took its final lap around Homestead, much like Richard Petty's final race. In his post race interview with NBC's Marty Snider, Dale said, visibly choked up with tears, "All these years, driving for the same sponsor and team. I wanna thank Richard (Childress) for the opportunity he gave me, as well as Humpy Wheeler, and everyone else. I wanna thank Goodwrench for sticking with me even through the bad years, and want to say to Jeff Gordon: You are the face of the sport now, Don't let me down boy". Dale finished the year 10th in points and was honored at the Banquet in New York for his illustrious NASCAR career, and won Driver of the Year, unseating Bill Elliott. Dale then went on to manage Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated, with drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Michael Waltrip, and a driver signed away from RCR, Kevin Harvick. As for Dale's final car, it went to the DEI museum. The #30 got a new driver named Jim Inglebright, and DEI bought the #3 team from RCR, leading RCR to cut back to two cars.
Dale got back behind the wheel for two races when his driver and son Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was seriously burned in a sports car race that year. Earnhardt finished 20th in both starts.
Dale Earnhardt participated in the 50th annual Daytona 500, which also coincided with the 10th anniversary of Dale's win in 1998. He qualified 31st. Dale led his final 6 laps ever driving in NASCAR during the 50th Daytona 500, and finished 15th.
As A Team Owner
Dale Earnhardt has ran Dale Earnhardt, Inc. since 1996. The team is a powerhouse in NASCAR, only competing with Hendrick Motorsports at a realistic level.
No. 3 car
Earnhardt drove the No. 3 car for the majority of his career, spanning the early 1980s until his retirement in 2003. Although he had other sponsors during his career, his No. 3 is associated in fans' minds with his last sponsor GM Goodwrench and his last color scheme — a predominantly black car with bold red and silver trim. The black and red No. 3 continues to be one of the most famous logos in North American motor racing.
In the NASCAR Monster Energy Series, Kevin Harvick has driven the #3 car for DEI since Earnhardt Sr. retired in 2003. Sponsors have included GM Goodwrench (2003-2006), Shell Gasoline (2006-2007) and since 2008, Reese's.
In 2004, ESPN released a made-for-TV movie entitled 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story, which used a new (but similarly colored) No. 3 logo. The movie was a sympathetic portrayal of Earnhardt's life, but the producers were sued for using the No. 3 logo. In December 2006, the ESPN lawsuit was settled, but details were not released to the public.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made two special appearances in 2002 in a No. 3 Busch Series car: these appearances were at the track where his father won 3 times (Daytona) and the track where he made his first Winston Cup start (Charlotte). Earnhardt Jr. won the first of those two races, which was the season-opening event at Daytona. He also raced a No. 3 sponsored by Wrangler on July 2, 2010, for Richard Childress Racing at Daytona. In a green-white- checker finish he outran Joey Logano to win his second race in the No. 3.
On September 5, 2009, Austin Dillon, the 19-year-old grandson of Richard Childress, debuted an RCR-owned No. 3 truck in the Camping World Truck Series. Dillon and his younger brother Ty Dillon drove No. 3s in various lower level competitions for several years, including the Camping World East Series. In 2012, A. Dillon began driving in the Nationwide Series full-time, using the No. 3; he had previously used the No. 33 while driving in that series part-time.
Richard Childress Racing entered a No. 3 in the Daytona truck race on February 13, 2010, painted identically to when Earnhardt drove it, but with a sponsorship from Bass Pro Shops. It was driven by A. Dillon. It was involved in a wreck almost identical to that which nearly took the life of Earnhardt: being spun out, colliding with another vehicle, and being turned into the outside wall in turn number four. Dillon again returned to a number 3 marked racecar when he started fifth in the 2012 Daytona Nationwide Series opener in an Advocare sponsored black Chevrolet Impala.
The International Race of Champions actually retired the No. 3, which they did in a rule change effective in 2004. Anyone wishing to use the No. 3 again has to use No. 03 instead.
Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo chose the number 3 as his permanent racing number when F1's rules changed to allow drivers to choose their own numbers for 2014 and stated on Twitter that part of the reason for his choice was that he is a fan of Earnhardt's, while his helmet design features the number stylized in the same way. Earnhardt Sr. tweeted he was honored.
"Earnhardt Tower", a seating section at Daytona International Speedway was opened and named in his honor shortly after his retirement.
Earnhardt has several roads named after him, including a street in his hometown Kannapolis. Dale Earnhardt Boulevard (originally Earnhardt Road) is marked as Exit 60 off Interstate 85, northeast of Charlotte. Dale Earnhardt Drive is also the start of The Dale Journey Trail, a self-guided driving tour of landmarks in the lives of Earnhardt and his family. The North Carolina Department of Transportation switched the designation of a road between Kannapolis and Mooresville near the headquarters of DEI (that used to be called NC 136) with NC 3, which was in Currituck County. In addition, Exit 72 off Interstate 35W, one of the entrances to Texas Motor Speedway, is named "Dale Earnhardt Way".
Between the 2004 and 2005 JGTC (renamed Super GT from 2005) season, Hasemi Sport competed in the series with a sole black G'Zox sponsored Nissan 350Z with the same number and letterset as Earnhardt on the roof.
During the NASCAR weekend races at Talladega Superspeedway on April 29, 2006 – May 1, 2006, the DEI cars competed in identical special black paint schemes on Dale Earnhardt Day, which is held annually on his birthday—April 29. Martin Truex Jr., won the Aaron's 312 in the black car, painted to reflect Earnhardt's Intimidating Black No. 3 NASCAR Busch Grand National series car. In the Nextel Cup race on May 1, No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.; No. 1 Martin Truex Jr.; and No. 15 Paul Menard competed in cars with the same type of paint scheme.
On June 18, 2006, at Michigan for the 3M Performance 400, Earnhardt Jr. ran a special vintage Budweiser car to honor his father and his grandfather Ralph Earnhardt. He finished third after rain caused the race to be cut short. The car was painted to resemble Ralph's 1956 dirt cars, and carried 1956-era Budweiser logos to complete the throwback look.
In the summer of 2007, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) with the Dale Earnhardt Foundation, announced it will fund an annual undergraduate scholarship at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina for students interested in motorsports and automotive engineering. Scholarship winners are also eligible to work at DEI in internships. The first winner was William Bostic, a senior at Clemson majoring in mechanical engineering.
In 2008, on the 50th anniversary of the first Daytona 500 race, DEI and RCR teamed up to make a special COT sporting Earnhardt's 1998 Daytona 500 paint scheme to honor the tenth anniversary of his Daytona 500 victory. In a tribute to all previous Daytona 500 winners, the winning drivers appeared in a lineup on stage, in chronological order. The throwback No. 3 car stood in the infield, standing next to Earnhardt. The throwback car featured the authentic 1998-era design on a current-era car, a concept similar to modern throwback jerseys in other sports. The car was later sold in 1:64 and 1:24 scale diecast models. Dale Earnhardt would also then drive the car for the 50th Daytona 500 therafter.
The Intimidator 305 roller coaster has been open since April 2010 at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia. Named after Earnhardt, the ride's trains are modeled after his black-and-red Chevrolet. Another Intimidator was built at Carowinds, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Atlanta Braves assistant coach Ned Yost was a friend of Earnhardt, and Richard Childress. When Yost was named Milwaukee Brewers manager, he changed jersey numbers, from No. 5 to No. 3 in Earnhardt's honor. (No. 3 is retired by the Braves in honor of outfielder Dale Murphy, so Yost could not make the change while in Atlanta.) When Yost was named Kansas City Royals assistant coach, he wore No. 2 for the 2010 season, even when he was named manager in May 2010, but for the 2011 season, he switched back to No. 3.
The north entrance to New Avondale City Center in Arizona will bear the name Dale Earnhardt Drive. Avondale is where Earnhardt won a Cup race in 1990.
His helmet from the 1998 season is at the National Museum of American History in the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.
Weedeater, a sludge metal band from North Carolina, paid tribute to Earnhardt on their 2003 album Sixteen Tons, with the song "No. 3". The song is played with audio clips from television broadcasts about Earnhardt mixed in the background.