NASCAR: The only 2 active drivers to compete against Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images) /

Twenty years after his passing, there are still two active full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers who had the opportunity to compete with Dale Earnhardt.

Twenty years ago Thursday on the final lap of the 2001 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt was involved in an accident that took his life.

“The Intimidator”, who is still today considered arguably the greatest driver of all-time, won 76 races throughout his career as well as a record-tying seven championships.

Only Richard Petty had ever done that before him and only Jimmie Johnson has managed to do so after him.

Since Earnhardt’s passing 20 years ago Thursday, NASCAR has seen no fatalities in any one of its three national series.

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There hasn’t been a fatality in any series since Carlos Pardo was killed in a late accident during a Mexico Corona Series race at Autódromo Miguel E. Abed in Amozoc, Puebla in 2009. The 2010s decade was the first decade with zero accident-related NASCAR fatalities.

Twenty years later, there are still two drivers competing full-time who had the opportunity to compete with Earnhardt in the Cup Series before he passed away. Those two drivers are Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch. They competed against Earnhardt in a combined nine races, with Newman doing so in one and Busch doing so in eight.

Newman made his lone start with Earnhardt at Phoenix Raceway late in the 2000 season. Busch competed in seven of the final eight races of the 2000 season and then in the 2001 season opener in which Earnhardt ultimately lost his life.

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Both Newman and Busch are slated to become free agents at the end of the 2021 season, and retirement has been rumored for both. Should that happen, there would be no more active full-time drivers who ever had the opportunity to compete against “The Intimidator”.