On April 29, 1951, Dale Earnhardt was born in Kannapolis. His father Ralph, was a competitive driver on the NASCAR Modified, Sportsman and Grand National circuits. Following in his father’s footsteps, Earnhardt dropped out of school in ninth grade to pursue a career in racing.
Earnhardt made his stock car debut in 1975 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, finishing 22nd. He drove sporadically, without a full-time sponsor until 1979, when Richard Osterlund chose him for his team. He won at Bristol in his 16thstart, and went on to place in the top five in 11 races during the season. His performance earned him Rookie of the Year honors. The following year he won the first of the seven Winston Cup Series titles he would win over the course of his life.
Known for his aggressive driving style, and often called “The Intimidator,” Earnhardt dominated the sport through the 1980s and early 1990s. Aside from his seven Winston Cup and three IROC titles, he was also named American Driver of the Year twice and National Motorsports Press Association Driver of the Year five times.
Dale Earnhardt was killed in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001, at the age of 49.
Other related resources:
For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.