This Day In Sports History.......

Today is the passing of NASCAR's greatest racer in the most important race of the year. On the morning of the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt appeared confident and relaxed. When the race started, Earnhardt showed early promise, leading the race and maintaining a front-running position for most of the event.

A multi-car wreck late in the race eliminated several cars in spectacular fashion. Tony Stewart, who had beaten Earnhardt in the Budweiser Shootout, found his car tumbling wildly down the backstretch. The race was red flagged to facilitate cleanup of the track, and when the race resumed, it was Earnhardt and DEI drivers Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip who were running up front. As the laps wound down, Waltrip was leading Earnhardt Jr. and Earnhardt.

While Michael Waltrip raced toward the checkered flag to claim his first victory, with Earnhardt Jr. close behind, the cars of Earnhardt and Schrader slid off the track's asphalt banking toward the infield grass just inside of turn four. After climbing from his car, Schrader peered into Earnhardt's car, only to jump back and signal for EMTs.

Earnhardt's death was the catalyst for a number of changes in NASCAR,NASCAR also made the use of the HANS device mandatory in all cars following Earnhardt's death. Until that point, use of the HANS device was optional, at the discretion of the drivers or teams. Earnhardt had refused to wear the device, arguing it was uncomfortable and ineffective. He was not using a HANS device on the day he died of a Basilar skull fracture. The HANS device is designed to prevent such injuries.

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