Autopsy: The Last Hours of...: Dale Earnhardt


On February 18th 2001, Dale Earnhardt Sr, one of the greatest drivers in Nascar history and an icon of the sport, was tragically killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Across a glittering 27 year career Dale won a record equalling 7 world championships with 76 Nascar Cup Series races wins along the way including the sports biggest prize, the Daytona 500 in 1998. His mix of salt-of-the-earth southern charm off the track and aggressive racing style on it, won him millions of adoring fans. But in 2001, with little left to achieve in the sport and aged 49, rumours spread that he was looking to the next chapter in his career. He now had his own team, Dale Earnhardt inc, with his son Dale Jr. lining up on the track beside him. But before the next chapter in the Dale Earnhardt story could be written, disaster struck. With just two turns of the race remaining, his car was involved in a collision with two others, forcing him head on into the retaining wall travelling at almost 160 mph. So what really happened that day? Did years of prioritising winning over safety cause Dale to take one too many risks? Was his aging body carrying an injury or condition that day that had diminished his ability to drive? Was a mysterious threat, buried deep in his past, still hanging over him? Or was Dale’s mind elsewhere, as he drove not to win, but to secure his legacy? In this episode of ‘Autopsy: The last hours of’, using medical records, crash investigation reports and first hand testimony of people involved in the tragic events, world renowned forensic pathologist Dr Michael Hunter investigates.