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Dale Earnhardt fatally crashed on February 18, 2001, during the Daytona 500. During the final lap, Earnhardt crashes, hitting the wall, and is instantly killed in what is considered one of the most tragic deaths in NASCAR history. Afterwards, fingers pointed towards several, with people trying to find someone to blame for the crash. Sterling Martin was blamed, as well as the company that installed Earnhardt's seatbelt. However, it was ruled an accident..

On February 18, 2001, Dale Earnhardt was in 7th place during the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. During the final lap, Earnhardt's left rear bumper and Sterling Marlin's front bumper made contact with each other, causing a catastrophic set of events. Earnhardt's car hit the wall and straight into the path of Ken Shrader. Earnhardt didn't have a HANS device on that would have secured his head to the seat. When he hit his head hit it caused a basilar scull fracture, instantly killing him. However, he was not pronounced dead until he reached the hospital.

Afterwards, NASCAR took numerous safety measures to ensure nothing like this would happen again, including making the HANS device mandatory during races. A police investigation ensued after his death, with allegations that the seatbelt device failed. Kevin Harvick replaced Earnhardt in his upcoming races for the year.
Earnhardt's death is considered one of the biggest and most tragic catastrophe's in NASCAR history, and his death left a mark on NASCAR, as well as being a media hype. His fans still remember him and celebrate his career.

Earnhardt would never wear a Hans device, stating throughout his career that he felt like it restricted him and was uncomfortable. This would ultimately become the biggest mistake of his career, and his life. Had he wore the Hans device, which is a mechanism that secures the head and neck from moving too much or too fast during a major hit, he may still be alive today. Even though nothing ever came of the allegations of seatbelt failure, several people from the seatbelt company resigned.