Ironhead. The Intimidator. Mr. Restrictor Plate. The Man in Black. Dad.
All were names that Dale Earnhardt, Sr., was given or earned throughout his career and life.
Here was a man who struck, at the least, unease, and, at worst, fear into opponents when he made an appearance in their rear view mirrors.
Yet, off the track he was always ready with a kind word, some sage advice, and plenty of encouragement for up-and-coming drivers, belying the intense competitiveness he displayed on the track.
He won seven championships before he was finally able to complete his career by taking home the big one in Daytona, ending a 20-year drought at his favorite race track.
However, this place which seemed to give him the most joy would also be the site of his demise: In a last-lap crash trying to help his son Dale Jr., and Junior's teammate Michael Waltrip gain a victory at the 500, Earnhardt's car wiggled, then snapped violently to the right, hitting the outside retaining wall, while almost simultaneously being T-boned by the No. 38 of Ken Schrader.
At first what looked like a minor accident—after all, he had walked away from much worse—slowly became frighteningly hectic as rescue crews worked feverishly to extricate him from the wreckage.
Fans and drivers hoped for the best, while some, such as long-time friend and competitor Darrell Waltrip, most assuredly feared the worst.
Scant hours later, NASCAR president Mike Helton brought the sports community to its knees with one short sentence: "After the accident in Turn Four at the end of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt."
And with that, fans of the man who had once famously said in a post-race interview that he didn't care whether fans were booing him or cheering him, as long as they were making some noise, were stunned into silence and mourning.