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NASCAR remembers Dale Earnhardt Sr. at the 2011 Daytona 500

When the 53rd Daytona 500 begins this coming Sunday, it will be an exciting day for the race teams and fans alike, but it will also be the somber 10th anniversary of racing legend Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s on-track death the during the last lap of the 2001 “Great American Race”.

On February 18th, 2001 the 43rd Daytona 500 was on the last turn of the last lap when Dale Earnhardt Sr. came together with Sterling Marlin – sending Earnhardt into the outside retaining wall in what looked to be a fairly innocent looking crash. The normal extraction seemed to take longer than usual as he was loaded into the ambulance and at a press conference 2 hours later, NASCAR President Mike Helton made the announcement that forever changed the sport. "Undoubtedly this is one of the toughest announcements I've ever personally had to make. After the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt.”

Earnhardt’s death was something that rocked the American sporting world. At the time, NASCAR was one of the fastest-growing sports in the country and for Dale Sr. to lose his life and leave the sport when he did, it was the racing equivalent of Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning or Albert Pujols losing their life while competing. There have been numerous tribute’s paid by both NASCAR and the rest of the sporting world but as we reach the 10th anniversary of NASCAR’s darkest day, the 2011 Daytona 500 will likely be just as much about remember Earnhardt as it will be watching the 53rd running of the race.

To recognize this sad day, NASCAR has asked that the fans – both in attendance and around the world – remain silent during the 3rd lap of the 2011 Daytona 500. NASCAR has also requested that all announcers of the race remain silent during the 3rd lap and that the fans in attendance stand and hold up three fingers to pay tribute to the man who was not only one of the best in his day, but in the history of the sport. NASCAR will also have a black number 3 paint on the infield grass as they help to commemorate the late, great racer.

The NASCAR world was excited to see Earnhardt’s son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., qualify for the pole position for the 2011 Daytona 500 but Jr. will have to start from the rear of the field after being forced to switch to a backup car due to a crash in practice. The 53rd Daytona 500 kicks off at Noon (EST) this Sunday and you can catch all of the action on Fox.

The starting lineup for the 2011 Daytona 500:
Row 1:
1 – No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet
2 – 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
Row 2:
3 – No. 22 Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
4 – No. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
Row 3:
5 – No. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
6 – No. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
Row 4:
7 – No. 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
8 – 15 Michael Waltrip NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
Row 5:
9 – No. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Black Ford
10 – No. 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Toyota
Row 6:
11 – No. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
12 – No. 92 Brian Keselowski K-Automotive Dodge
Row 7:
13 – No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
14 – No. 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
Row 8:
15 – No. 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
16 – No. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
Row 9:
17 – No. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
18 – No. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
Row 10:
19 – No. 27 Paul Menard Menards/Peak Chevrolet
20 – No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Toyota
Row 11:
21 – No. 39 Ryan Newman U.S.Army Chevrolet
22 – No. 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
Row 12:
23 – No. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet
24 – No. 00 David Reutimann Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
Row 13:
25 – No. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
26 – No. 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
Row 14:
27 – No. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
28 – No. 37 Robert Richardson Jr.(i) North Texas Pipe Ford
Row 15:
29 – No. 09 Bill Elliott Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
30 – No. 7 Robby Gordon SPEED Energy Dodge
Row 16:
31 – No. 47 Bobby Labonte Kroger/USO Toyota
32 – No. 21 Trevor Bayne Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
Row 17:
33 – No. 46 J.J. Yeley Red Line Oil Chevrolet
34 – No. 6 David RaganUPS Ford
Row 18:
35 – No. 9 Marcos AmbroseStanley Ford
36 – No. 77 Steve Wallace 5-hour Energy Toyota
Row 19:
37 – No. 71 Andy Lally Super Eco-Fuel Saver Chevrolet
38 – No. 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
Row 20:
39 – No. 34 David Gilliland Taco Bell FordRow
40 – No. 38 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver’s Ford
Row 21
41 – No. 87 Joe Nemechek(i) AM FM Energy Toyota
42 – No. 36 Dave BlaneyTommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
Row 22:
43 – No. 32 Terry Labonte U.S. Chrome Ford

Image courtesy of wikimedia.