Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash during the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Backstory and Context
On February 18, 2001, Dale Earnhardt was in 7th place during the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. During the final lap, Earnhardt's left rear bumper and Sterling Marlin's front bumper made contact with each other, causing a catastrophic set of events. Earnhardt's car hit the wall and straight into the path of Ken Shrader. Earnhardt didn't have a HANS device on that would have secured his head to the seat. When he hit his head hit it caused a basilar scull fracture, instantly killing him. However, he was not pronounced dead until he reached the hospital.
Afterwards, NASCAR took numerous safety measures to ensure nothing like this would happen again, including making the HANS device mandatory during races. A police investigation ensued after his death, with allegations that the seatbelt device failed. Kevin Harvick replaced Earnhardt in his upcoming races for the year.
Earnhardt's death is considered one of the biggest and most tragic catastrophe's in NASCAR history, and his death left a mark on NASCAR, as well as being a media hype. His fans still remember him and celebrate his career.
Earnhardt would never wear a Hans device, stating throughout his career that he felt like it restricted him and was uncomfortable. This would ultimately become the biggest mistake of his career, and his life. Had he wore the Hans device, which is a mechanism that secures the head and neck from moving too much or too fast during a major hit, he may still be alive today. Even though nothing ever came of the allegations of seatbelt failure, several people from the seatbelt company resigned.