Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Miraculous Survival Story

The professional race car driver shares how he was mysteriously saved from a horrific car accident.

- Posted on May 11, 2020

professional race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It happened in the blink of an eye. It was 2004. A normal day for professional race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. He was at California’s Sonoma Raceway, practicing for the American Le Mans Series race later that day. No one saw the accident coming.

Dale miscalculated and took a turn too quickly. The Corvette he was driving spun out of control, clipping the wall and catching fire. It was later determined that the car’s fuel line had ruptured, leaking gasoline everywhere. All that was needed was a spark. As cars continued to drive past, the car burst into flames.

For Dale, the next few moments were a haze of smoke and confusion. He managed to unbuckle his seatbelt, but couldn’t see a way out. His mind went blank. Until someone pulled him from the driver’s seat.

“I thought that it was a corner worker because I felt somebody put their hands under my armpits and pull me out of the car,” Dale said in an episode of his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download. “I didn’t get out. I don’t have any memory of myself climbing out of the car.”

Emergency crews acted quickly. Dale was airlifted to University of California–Davis Medical Center and treated for second-degree burns to his face and legs. Dale knew he was lucky to be alive. His own father, race car driver Dale Earnhardt Sr., had been killed in a similar accident three years prior.

When Dale woke up in the hospital twelve hours later, he wanted to know who had saved him. He wanted to thank them. But when he asked for the person’s name, he was told he’d gotten out of the car on his own.

He couldn't believe it, but photos of the crash confirmed eyewitness accounts. “There’s pictures of me lying on the ground next to the car,” said Dale. “And there was nobody there.” 

While his injuries forced him to miss his next two races, Dale soon healed up and headed right back to the track. Despite the setback, that fall, Dale became the first driver to sweep the weekend at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, winning both the Busch and Cup races. 

It’s been years since the accident, but, according to Dale, just thinking about it still gives him chills. Now retired from racing and working as a NASCAR commentator, he still has no idea how he escaped that wreck. But one thing’s for certain: Someone was looking out for him that day.

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