In an eerie near-replay of his father's fatal collision on the Daytona racetrack the week before, NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., 26, crashed into a concrete wall on the first lap of the Dura Lube 400 on Sunday, though, luckily, the younger Earnhardt walked away from his badly damaged vehicle. Emerging from the wreck, Earnhardt waved to a stunned crowd that only seconds before had expressed a collective gasp when he banged into the barrier. Seeing that he was alive, the spectators then broke into thunderous applause. Later he told reporters, "I'll be OK." Meanwhile, over the weekend, it was announced in the wake of the autopsy of Earnhardt Sr., 49, that the racing legend might have survived the Indy crash if only one of his lap belts had not broken. Before Sunday's crash involving Dale Jr., the track (which is located in Rockingham, N.C.) held a moment of silence in memory of his father, who was known as the Intimidator. Also on Sunday, in Kannapolis, N.C., thousands of friends, fans and family members paid tribute to the Intimidator in his hometown, where he was described as a proud native son.
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