No one has died at NASCAR's top levels of racing since Dale Earnhardt's wreck at Daytona International Speedway a decade ago. NASCAR's dramatic strides in improving safety represent an important part of the story for everyone in racing, on and off the track.
NASCAR and Earnhardt's death are the first-day focus as the Observer's re-examines racing safety. Moving forward, we take a much wider view.
Among the findings:
Safety improvements have been slow to reach smaller tracks, where deaths continue at an alarming rate:
At least 235 people have died in U.S. auto races since Earnhardt was killed Feb. 18, 2001. That number is up from at least 217 who died in the 10 years preceding his death, according to an Observer study.
Half of the deaths happen at small oval tracks, where races are run Friday and Saturday nights across America.
Deaths at drag races are up.
And last year was the deadliest for spectator deaths in the 21 years the Observer has tracked fatalities.
Until the Observer's 2001 investigation, "Death at the Track," no one kept track of how many people die in racing. Now, 10 years later, the Observer offers a searchable list of those who have died in racing since 1990. The database shows patterns that could save lives.
The database and more of the content generated by the Observer's new reporting about racing safety will be posted in the days ahead. All of it will be archived and remain available on the newspaper's racing site, www.ThatsRacin.com.