By George Díaz, Orlando Sentinel
February 12, 2011
Born: Ralph Dale Earnhardt on April 29, 1951, in Kannapolis, N.C. Starts racing on local dirt tracks when he is 15.
Career pole positions: 22.
Career top-5 finishes: 268.
Career top-10 finishes: 404.
Winston Cup Championships: 7 (1980, '86, '87, '90, '91, '93, '94).
IROC Championships: 3 (1990, '95, '99).
American Driver of the Year: 2 (1987, '94).
Won record 9 races at Talladega Superspeedway.
Owns record 34 victories in all types of racing at Daytona International Speedway.
May 1975: Earnhardt makes his stock-car-racing debut, finishing 22nd in the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
1979: After a tryout, Earnhardt is signed to his first Winston Cup contract by Rod Osterlund, a racing sponsor based in California. That same year, Earnhardt wins his first NASCAR race at the Southeastern 500 in Bristol, Tenn. By the end of the racing season, he has become the first driver to win more than $200,000 in his rookie year and is named NASCAR's Rookie of the Year.
1980: Earnhardt wins his first NASCAR Cup championship, becoming the only driver to win Rookie of the Year and season championship back-to-back.
1981: Earnhardt joins Richard Childress Racing after Osterlund sells his team to J.D. Stacy. Earnhardt finishes 7th in the points standings but is winless.
1986: Wins 5 races to capture his second Winston Cup title.
1987: Goes back-to-back, winning 11 races to capture his 3rd Winston Cup Championship (finishing in top 5 21 times in 29 races).
1990: Earnhardt wins his 4th Winston Cup Championship, earning a then-record $3.1 million in winnings.
1991: Earnhardt brings home another title, winning 4 races.
1993: Wins 6 races, earning his 6th Winston Cup title.
1994: Wins 7th Winston Cup Championship, tying Richard Petty for most career titles. Earnhardt also tops $3 million mark in earnings for 3rd time in 5 years.
1999: Earnhardt drives hard into Turn Two at Bristol Motor Speedway, bumping Terry Labonte and spinning him around as the white flag drops. Spectators boo and make obscene gestures at Earnhardt as he crosses the finish line with a victory. "I didn't try to turn him around; I just wanted to rattle his cage," Earnhardt says.
2000: Wins Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway for final career victory.
2001: On Feb. 18, Earnhardt dies on the final lap of the Daytona 500 after his car slides up the track and hits a wall. He dies of a basilar skull fracture, prompting significant safety improvements in the sport.