How Dale Earnhardt’s death caused a NASCAR safety revolution - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

How Dale Earnhardt’s death caused a NASCAR safety revolution

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Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. AP photo Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. AP photo

(NBC Sports) - It’s been 15 years since the biggest crash in NASCAR history that left the sport missing one of its greats: Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in a last-lap wreck in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2001. 

Drivers looked back at the positive impact the tragic crash had on the sport, and how improvements to driver and fan safety have come since that tragic day.

In July, 2015, riding bumper-to-bumper at nearly 200 mph, NASCAR driver Austin Dillon was smack in the middle of a pack of cars at Daytona headed to the checkered flag early Monday morning when he was suddenly sent on the ride of his life.

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Nearly everyone in NASCAR feared the worst looking at what remained of his car. Instead, he was helped out by rival crews and he gave the "I'm OK" two-handed wave used by late American bullrider Lane Frost to the stunned crowd.

But for this year's Daytona 500, the track has since reinforced its fencing, which is part of the track's ongoing $400 million renovation project has moved seating back a bit from the fence.

Kyle Busch became the unwitting poster boy for NASCAR safety improvements earlier this year.

It's not a role he wanted. But now that it's been thrust upon him, he's not shying away from taking the lead on suggesting changes.

The Joe Gibbs Racing star said in July he would like to see tracks remove grass from areas adjacent to racing surfaces.

"I think that we all need to just take a step and really pour every effort into everywhere around the race tracks," Busch said at Daytona International Speedway. "In reality, there's no sense in grass. We have absolutely no reason to have grass at any of these facilities. I think that needs to be one of the next biggest pushes that we can all have."

In Daytona, the expansion project, called "Daytona Rising" will bring a total of approximately 101,500 permanent, wider and more comfortable seats, twice as many restrooms and three times as many concession stands. 

In addition, the Speedway will feature over 60 luxury suites with track side views and a completely revamped hospitality experience for corporate guests.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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