NASCAR Legend Michael Waltrip Pays Respects to Dale Earnhardt at Daytona 500, 19 Years After Death

Michael Waltrip has paid his respects to the legendary Dale Earnhardt on Twitter. Earnhardt died 19 years ago during the final lap at the Daytona 500 in 2001. That was also the same year that Waltrip walked away as the winner.

Nearly every detail of Earnhardt's death sent ripples through the racing community -- calling into question the safety issues that are inherent with the sport. Earnhardt is still widely regarded as one of the best drivers of all time, having won 76 Winston Cup races during his 26-year career, the bulk of which was done in the No. 3 car.

The crash that killed Earnhardt is also drawing comparisons to Ryan Newman's crash that occurred during Monday night's race. Like in 2001, the crash occurred in the final seconds, although after being taken to the hospital that night, Newman was released on Wednesday afternoon.

Earnhardt's son, Dale Earnardt, Jr., has been outspoken about the outcome of the Daytona 500 this year. While he's namely voiced his concern for Newman, he also defended Denny Hamlin, who was declared the winner shortly after the wreck. Hamlin's post-race celebration caused some flack with viewers, given that almost nothing about Newman's state was known at that point.

However, Earnhardt, Jr. called the fallout "unfortunate" and even compared it to that fateful race in 2001.

"I think back to 2001 when dad had his accident, and Michael Waltrip had made it all the way to victory lane himself and celebrating what he feels like was the most incredible moment of his life and waiting on dad to walk right into that victory lane at any moment to celebrate with him," he explained. "I think I can tell you how that process can happen, how what happened with Denny and his team can easily happen. There's a lot of other similar situations that are much like that to compare that to that make it understandable to what played out with Denny and his team."


Hamlin has since clarified the timeline of events, indicating that he was unaware that Newman had been taken to the hospital at the time.

While Newman appears to be on the mend, the racing team site Roush Fenway reported that there is "no timetable for Newman's return" at this time.