Dale Earnhardt, Tony Roper and John Nemecheck are the last top-flight NASCAR drivers to die while racing. Kenny Irwin Jr., Rodney Orr and Neil Bonnett died during practice sessions.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Earnhardt died Feb. 18, 2001 of a skull fracture when his car went into a wall on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Earnhardt's death in the Winston Cup race led NASCAR to order safety features such as softer walls and head-and-neck restraints.
Roper died Oct. 13, 2000, one day after a Craftsman Truck Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway, when his truck made a sharp right turn into a wall. Nemecheck died March 16, 1997, five days after he suffered brain injuries in a Craftsman Truck race.
Irwin was in a Winston Cup practice session July 7, 2000, for the New England 300 when his vehicle hit a wall and flipped onto its roof. Orr and Bonnett died while in practice sessions for the 1991 Daytona 500. Bonnett, a 20-year NASCAR veteran, died Feb. 11, 2001, in a head-on collision with a wall, while Orr died instantly Feb. 14, 2001, when his vehicle went into a wall and flipped onto the roof.
Another notable death occurred May 12, 2000, when Adam Petty died instantly in a Busch Grand National Series practice session. The vehicle's accelerator became stuck and Petty drove into a wall. Petty was the grandson of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty and son of NASCAR driver Kyle Petty.