Jason Beckerman and Derek Kaufman dissected the last day and the aftermath of the last day of Dale Earnhardt’s life in the podcast “Last Days” by TMZ. While Dale Earnhardt’s death is a story NASCAR fans either lived through or have heard told multiple times, this podcast provides a lot of interesting context to the story that may have been lost in the shuffle to some during the years.
The Lead-up To and the Day of
To start off, Beckerman and Kaufman take some time going through the story of how Earnhardt died. It is a story that has been told countless times, but they give some background to the situation.
Thay play an interview from MRN had with Earnhardt prior to the race, and they talk some about Earnhardt’s opinions on the recent safety push for NASCAR. One of the most important things about this day is that, while Earnhardt’s death pushed safety changes further forward, it was already on people’s minds. Three drivers had passed away from the same injury, a basilar rink skull fracture, with those drivers being Adam Petty, Tony Roper and Kenny Irwin Jr.
As for what happened after the tragic incident, they give the insights of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kenny Schrader’s initial reactions to the crash. Schrader was the first one on the scene after the crash taking Earnhardt’s window net down. Earnhardt Jr. sprinted straight to the infield care center and the hospital afterwards.
Beckerman and Kaufman offer specific quotes from the two about their immediate thoughts, not what they said to the media in the immediate aftermath. It was interesting insight that I had personally never heard before.
The Immediate Aftermath
The fallout from the crash was far more than just the impact on the sport, Beckerman and Kaufman even go into some legal fallout from the crash. They dig into the forensics report that was released following the crash. It’s well-documented that Earnhardt died from a basilar ring skull fracture, but Beckerman and Kaufman talk about what specifically caused it.
That was interesting to hear because the main thing I had always heard was just about the skull fracture. I did not know what specifically caused that skull fracture other than that the car went fast into a wall and stopped suddenly.
The most interesting tidbit was the legal fallout. Dale Earnhardt’s death was so public that the release of certain records actually turned into a legal battle between Theresa Earnhardt and the release of pictures of Dale at the time of his death. While this was also news to me, the most interesting thing was that the result of this case actually changed the way that the release of certain records to the public after people passed away.
This all is something that was completely new to me. I never knew that the release of these things were actually a part of a legal battle. It’s not uncommon for this to be a point of contention when famous people pass away, but the fact that the fallout of Dale Earnhardt’s death literally changed the law is fascinating.
The safety improvements in the aftermath have made impacts on the sport to this very day. That is discussed by Beckerman and Kaufman, but the lesser-known thing they discuss is how some fans reacted to the death of Earnhardt.
People tried to point fingers at who was potentially responsible. However, people both close to Earnhardt and within the sport came to defend some of these individuals who were criticized as as Beckerman and Kaufman discuss.
This was tough to listen to just because Earnhardt’s death was in no-way the fault of those who were blamed. It was an auto racing accident at the end of the Daytona 500. These types of wrecks happen, and oftentimes the answer is that no one was ultimately responsible as was the case with Earnhardt.
To finish out, Beckerman and Kaufman talk about what could have been. Where would Earnhardt have gone had he not lost his life at Daytona?
No one will ever know, but multiple people have talked about how happy Earnhardt was in the days leading up to that race. His son was starting his racing career, and Dale was feeling better than ever. What could have been?