DAYTONA BEACH (WSYR-TV) It was the final lap of the Daytona 500.
NASCAR’s most prestigious race.
The one drivers will do anything to win.
With the checkered flag in sight there was a frightening crash, as one car turned right into the wall.
This wasn’t Monday night. It was February 18, 2001, and the most famous driver in NASCAR in his iconic black number 3 GM Goodwrench car had rolled to infield, as a car owned by Earnhardt, driven by Michael Waltrip won the 500.
Earnhardt was pronounced dead a short time later at the same hospital where today driver Ryan Newman recovers from last night’s wreck.
Earnhardt became the fourth driver to die hitting the concrete retaining wall at a NASCAR track.
The national coverage and the attention “The Intimidator’s ” death brought to the sport forced NASCAR to act.
The sanctioning body required drivers to wear full face helmets. It also required the use of the HANS device, which prevents the drivers head from violently whipping forward in a crash while the rest of his body is restrained in the seat.
New walls were installed at tracks, called the SAFER barrier, a so-called soft wall.
You can see it in action in Newman’s crash Monday night.
As Ryan Blaney’s car touches Newman’s bumper, Newman loses control and his car turns right, directly into the wall.
On impact you can see the wall flex, drastically reducing the G-Forces on Newman’s body.
NASCAR Also mandated changes in the car design, changes that including moving the driver a little more toward the center of the car, more crush zones, a six point harness and better seats.
But cars are traveling in excess of 190 miles and hour, and at the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, the cars race in tight packs often inches apart.
As Fox Sports signed off the air Monday night with no official word on Newman’s condition four-time champion turned broadcaster Jeff Gordon said “Safety’s come a long way in this sport, but sometimes we are reminded that it is a very dangerous sport.”