Dale Earnhardt: The greatest racecar driver of all time?

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In a rather unknown American sport, race car driving is a thrill whether you are a car fan or not. With such an unpopular sport, the title of being the greatest of all time is tough; however, I believe in his fine years of racing, Dale Earnhardt Sr. can be considered the GOAT with his extraordinary talent and phenomenal winnings. 

In his 22 full years of racing, Earnhardt finished in the top 10 in the Winston Cup for 20 of those years. He is also tied for NASCAR Cup Series Championships with seven total wins. Through his career, Earnhardt earned 76 NASCAR Cup Series victories, and absolutely coasted through the 16-driver brackets into the championship every time. With such a competitive sport, Dale was determined to be the greatest, and earned his fame throughout the nation and the world. Though Dale didn’t race for that long, he won 74 of 641 20th century races for a winning percentage of 11.6%. This was phenomenal considering the other racers and the amount of competition and the numerous non-controllables that would affect drivers and their cars.

Car racing is unlike any other sport across the globe. With such a profiting profession comes a lot of risk as well. Dale Earnhardt Sr. knew these risks as well as anyone as the only way to earn your way to the top is to be aggressive. Usually when you hear of aggressive drivers you think of 16 year olds who are new to the roads and don’t know the risks while also trying to get places quickly. In NASCAR, the only way to be a solid aggressive driver is to also be consistent. Dale earned his status thanks to his superb focus and consistency on and off the track. Much of driving is also knowing how the car works and when to push it hard and when not to. Although current cars have computers and safety features to allow these long races such as the Daytona 500—which is 500 miles—there has to be some meticulous control from the drivers and crew. Dale was aggressive in this way, as he pushed his car until the brink of destruction, then would strategically calm it down until it was ready to be excelled forward again. This style of driving was near impossible to perfect, but Dale mastered his technique which put him on top of the leaderboard time and time again.   

With this aggressive driving came a bold strategy as well: intimidation. Earnhardt used his fame and style of driving to his advantage, twisting his way through the competition simply by keeping confident and showing the opposing drivers that he was willing to cut the riskiest corners to keep his name on top. Unfortunately, with all of this came the risk of collisions. Although collisions aren’t necessarily uncommon in race car driving, fatalities are rare. Averaging 200+ mph, these NASCAR drivers are putting themselves in harms way. In the final lap of the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt pushed a little too hard and ended up coming a bit too close to another car and ended up dying that day. This settled his legacy while allowing his career to come to a close, and solidified him as one of the greatest to ever participate in the sport.

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