Death of Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt
Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was an American race car driver, best known for his involvement in stock car racing for NASCAR...

 was an American race car driver who gained fame driving stock cars for NASCAR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is a family-owned and -operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. It was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947–48. As of 2009, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of the late Bill France Sr...

 and winning seven championships. He was involved in a car accident during the last lap of the Daytona 500
Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 is a -long NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is one of four restrictor plate races on the Cup schedule....

 at Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is a race track in Daytona Beach, Florida, United States. Since opening in 1959, it has been the home of the Daytona 500, one of the most prestigious races in NASCAR. In addition to NASCAR, the track also hosts races of ARCA, AMA Superbike, Grand-Am and Motocross...

 on February 18, 2001. He was taken to Halifax Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 5:16 p.m. after sustaining blunt force trauma to the head. Earnhardt was 49 years old. The event was highly publicized and generated intense interest from the media and resulted in various safety improvements in NASCAR auto racing.

Following Earnhardt's death and the subsequent investigation of the events leading to his death, NASCAR began an intensive focus on safety that has seen the organization mandate the use of head-and-neck restraints, oversee the installation of SAFER barrier
SAFER barrier
The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier, sometimes called a soft wall, is a technology found primarily on oval automobile race tracks and intended to make racing accidents safer...

s at all oval tracks, set rigorous new inspection rules for seats and seat-belts, develop a roof-hatch escape system, and which eventually led to the development of a next-generation race car built with extra driver safety in mind: the Car of Tomorrow
Car of Tomorrow
The Car of Tomorrow, sometimes called CoT or "Car of Today", is the car style for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Larger and boxier than the design it replaced, the Car of Tomorrow is safer, costs less to maintain, and was intended to make for closer competition.The car was introduced in the 2007 Cup...