1. Dale Earnhardt
Earnhardt’s death elevated him into a beloved icon—but before that he was notorious for aggressive driving, earning two ominous nicknames: The Man in Black and The Intimidator. He came by those the honest way: by knocking people out of the way and not caring who got mad about it. Always more famous than popular, he was involved in some of the most high-profile feuds in the sport’s history. His death was controversial, too, prompting lawsuits about safety equipment, the release of photos by the medical examiner and his life insurance policy. Even today, 12 years after his death, there is debate about whether his No. 3 should ever be used again at the Sprint Cup level.
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