Sports Outside the Beltway

Dale Earnhardt Posthumously Enters Hall of Fame

Dale Earnhardt is now officially a Hall of Famer.

Dale Earnhardt was already the most popular driver stock car racing has ever known. Now he’s a Hall of Famer, too.The seven-time NASCAR champion, who died in a crash during the 2001 Daytona 500, was inducted Thursday night into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. There was never any doubt that The Intimidator would be a part of the Hall of Fame as soon as the five-year waiting period was up, and he was finally inducted Thursday night with the appropriate fanfare, in front of family, friends, competitors and fans.

Richard Childress, who fielded cars for six of Earnhardt’s championships and was also one of his closest friends, made a special presentation before the induction of Earnhardt, who would have been 55 on Saturday. “It was an honor and a privilege for me to work with the late Dale Earnhardt for 20 years and, more important, to be his friend,” said Childress, who presented one of Earnhardt’s famed No. 3 Chevrolets to the Hall of Fame.

Obviously, this was a slam dunk choice. It’s hardly clear that Earnhardt was “the most popular driver stock car racing has ever known.” Certainly, “King” Richard Petty might have some claim on that title. But Earnhardt was the most important figure in the period during which NASCAR became a major American sport rather than a niche regional one.

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