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In the years following Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death in 2001, there has been much discussion about his helmet choice. Earnhardt stuck firm to his belief that he always wore the proper gear inside his car. However, before his fatal accident, the legendary NASCAR driver made chilling remarks about his helmet.

Dale Earnhardt refused to wear the HANS helmet

Dale Earnhardt looks down at his steering wheel while wearing his helmet before a race
NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt prepares for a race | Allen Kee/WireImage

In the months leading up to Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death, he made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of the HANS device.

Several of his colleagues, such as Kyle Petty, Brett Bodine, Matt Kenseth, Dale Jarrett, and Andy Houston, wore it. He claimed it restricted his freedom of motion and view, making him uncomfortable on the track.

Earnhardt even went to the point of poking fun at Bodine, the first driver to use the gear, according to Autoweek. “In our last conversation, Dale came up to me [prior to the 500] and ridiculed me for wearing it,” said Bodine. “He said, ‘What are you, some kind of p—-?’ He said he didn’t know if he’d feel comfortable racing around me if I had it on.

“He said he’d tried one and didn’t feel good in it, that it limited his vision, and he couldn’t turn his head. But none of that bothered me because that was just Dale being Dale. You know, the Intimidator, the guy who was always going to do things his own way.”

His strong feelings concerning the device led to him making chilling remarks before his fatal crash.

Dale Earnhardt made eerie comments about his helmet before his fatal crash

The seven-time Cup Series champion remained stubborn with his decision to wear his open-face helmet. During an interview with Fox Sports ahead of the 2001 season, Earnhardt made some chilling comments to motorsports analyst Darrell Waltrip regarding his protective gear choice.

“You shouldn’t be talking about the helmet deal,” Earnhardt remarked. “It’s the safest helmet in Winston Cup racing today.”

Earnhardt stuck firm with his decision to use the helmet instead of the device many of his colleagues embraced. HANS investor Jim Downing is convinced it would have saved the legendary driver’s life.

On the NASCAR track, Earnhardt’s strong personality contributed significantly to helping him find incredible success. However, this choice could have played a pivotal role in avoiding that tragic route.

Earnhardt’s legacy remains forever intact

It’s been over two decades since Dale Earnhardt lost his life on the Daytona 500 track.

Earnhardt’s stubbornness about the helmet change doesn’t change his legacy. He was arguably the most popular driver in NASCAR.

Earning 76 Cup Series wins, the North Carolina native remains tied for the all-time mark with seven NASCAR Cup Series championships. His strong personality and aggressive racing style earned him the legendary nickname of “The Intimidator.”