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Journalist Quinn Kleinfelter
"It was on the very last corner of the very last lap."
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BBC's Tracy Ball
"Fans started a makeshift memorial"
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Monday, 19 February, 2001, 04:38 GMT
Motor racing star killed at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt's crashed Chevrolet at the Daytona 500
Rescue workers rush in vain to help Dale Earnhardt
Nascar motor racing legend Dale Earnhardt has died of injuries sustained in a last-lap accident at Sunday's Daytona 500.

Earnhardt, a seven-time Nascar Winston Cup champion, was 49.

He crashed after a collision at Turn Four of the famous Daytona course, which hosts the first race of the season.

Earnhardt had to be cut out of his car. He was taken to the hospital accompanied by his son, Dale Jr, a young Nascar star who finished second in the race.

NASCAR has lost its greatest ever driver
  Bill France Jr
NASCAR chairman

Earnhardt died instantly of head injuries, according to Steve Bohannon, a doctor at Halifax Medical Center, Daytona Beach, Florida.

"There was nothing that could have been done for him," he said.

Earnhardt Sr's death will be a shocking blow to the Nascar Winston Cup community, in which his standing was as great as Ayrton Senna's was in Formula One before the Brazilian was killed in 1994.

"Nascar has lost its greatest driver ever, and I personally have lost a great friend," Nascar chairman Bill France Jr said.

One of Earnhardt's NASCAR rivals John Andretti, said: "I feel like somebody kicked me in the chest. I'm stunned. And I'm really sad."

And President George W Bush called Earnhardt's widow to express his condolences.

Bush has attended Nascar events in the past and considered Earnhardt and his wife, Teresa, to be friends.

Dale Earnhardt waves to fans at Daytona
Earnhardt was a huge star in NASCAR

Earnhardt, who was nicknamed The Intimidator, crashed while trying to protect the cars run by his team ahead of him. He was running fourth, while race-winner Michael Waltrip and Earnhardt's son Dale Jr were first and second.

Earnhardt's car turned sideways after appearing to touch the Dodge of Sterling Marlin as they went into Turn Four.

The Pontiac of Ken Schrader slammed into the Chevrolet, taking both of them into the wall.

Schrader, who escaped injury, said: "I guess someone got into Dale because Dale got into me and we went up. We hit pretty hard, and Dale hit harder."

The death comes at a time when driver safety issues are under increased scrutiny. Three Nascar drivers were killed in crashes last season.

It was the second major wreck in five years in the race for Earnhardt, a driver known for his aggressiveness on the track.

He flipped wildly on the back straight near the end of the race in 1997 but was not seriously hurt. He came back to win the race the next year on his 20th try.

Earnhardt was by far the most successful of active Winston Cup drivers with 76 career victories. He also had the most victories at Daytona International Speedway, 34.

Earnhardt ran the team in which his son drives. He was beaten in the Daytona 500 by his team-mate Michael Waltrip.

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See also:

19 Feb 01 |  Other Sports
Legends claimed by the track
18 Feb 01 |  Motorsport
Waltrip takes maiden win
19 Feb 01 |  Motorsport
Nascar reels from loss of legend
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