Plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr and family crashes in Tennessee

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An airplane carrying retired Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr and his wife and daughter was involved in a fiery crash at an airport in Tennessee on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

The plane, a Cessna Citation registered to the racing team Earnhardt co-owns, overran the runway after landing at 3.40pm and caught fire at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport in eastern Tennessee, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Earnhardt, who has worked as a Nascar television analyst for NBC since retiring as a full-time driver in 2017, was traveling with his wife and 15-month-old daughter, two pilots and the family’s dog, Carter County sheriff Dexter Lunceford said. The airport is located 15 miles from Bristol Motor Speedway, where Earnhardt is part of the scheduled commentary team for Saturday night’s race.

Elizabethton fire chief Barry Carrier initially said Earnhardt and the other passengers were uninjured, but later clarified the two-time Daytona 500 champion was transported to Johnson City Medical Center for minor injuries, local affiliate WJHL-TV reported.

Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley, confirmed everyone on board was safe in a statement to the Guardian.

“Dale, Amy and Isla along with his two pilots were involved in a crash in Bristol, Tennessee, this afternoon,” the statement read. “Everyone is safe and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation. We have no further information at this time.”

The accident took place less than 20 miles from where 1992 Nascar champion Alan Kulwicki was among the four people killed in a light aircraft accident in 1993.

Earnhardt, 44, is one of the best-known drivers in the history of stock-car racing, having won Nascar’s Most Popular Driver award for 15 consecutive years from 2003 until his last full-time season.

He is the son of seven-time Nascar champion Dale Earnhardt Sr, who was fatally injured in a wreck during the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, a tragedy that shook the sport to its foundation and prompted a rigorous recommitment to driver safety. Earnhardt’s grandfather, Ralph, also competed in 51 races at Nascar’s highest level.

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