The Last Lap: No. 3 and Me

Millions of Americans, mostly in the red states, if you recall your election charts, lost a hero the instant the black car veered violently into the wall. Every major newspaper south of the Mason-Dixon Line rushed to put out a special section, while millions living north of that line wondered what the big deal was.

Dale Earnhardt left school in the ninth grade and entered his first race, legend has it, for grocery money. At the time of his death, his income had reached nearly $27 million a year. Mostly the money came from sales of merchandise: hats, jackets and the...

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