You probably know that Dale Earnhardt Sr. was famously known as "The Intimidator" during his racing days. If you're unsure as to how or why he received this badass moniker, all you have to do is check out this highlight from the 1997 Daytona 500. Of course, there wasn't just one singular occurrence that earned Earnhardt the best nickname in NASCAR, but there aren't too many drivers who would run out of an ambulance, hop back into a mangled car, drive to pit road for repairs, and finish a race while several laps down.
"The Intimidator" did just that in Daytona Beach, Florida on February 16, 1997.
With 12 laps to go in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt was in an intense battle for the lead, with Jeff Gordon hot on his tail. Gordon decided to make a move to pass Earnhardt, forcing Dale to hit the backstretch wall and bounce into traffic. In just a matter of seconds, Dale Jarrett collided with Earnhardt, causing him to roll over, and while he was on his roof, Ernie Irvan's No. 28 Ford slammed hard into Earnhardt's No. 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet. The impact was so hard that Irvan's hood was torn from his car and flew into the grandstands, injuring several spectators in the process.
As for Earnhardt, it seemed like he was down for the count. While his car was being loaded onto the wrecker vehicle, he himself was sitting in an ambulance, awaiting to be taken to the infield care center for precautionary evaluation. But, basically at the last second, Dale noticed that all of his Chevy's tires were still intact, meaning that Earnhardt's car was still drivable. That was all Earnhardt needed to keep going, so he hopped back into his banged-up ride and drove it to pit road. Earnhardt's pit crew scrambled to tape up the torn-up car, even going as far as jerry rigging the decklid back in place so that the car could have a spoiler. It didn't appear that the car was going to make it very far, but Earnhardt amazingly ended up finishing the race after this, despite being five laps behind.
Gordon went on to nab the victory in the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup Series race, with Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven finishing second and third, respectively, completing the 1-2-3 sweep for Hendrick Motorsports. Bill Elliott placed fourth, while Sterling Marlin rounded out the top five at Daytona International Speedway. Earnhardt would place 31st, adding to his bad luck at the Daytona 500 (he would finally break his unlucky streak at the 1998 running of "The Great American Race"). Still, the fact that he even finished the race that day in '97 showed that he was the fiercest warrior in NASCAR history.
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