Racing fans honor Earnhardt online

Since the death of racing star Dale Earnhardt Sr., fans have been flocking to tribute sites to pay homage to a man who dominated the tracks.

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Since the death of racing star Dale Earnhardt Sr. this week, fans have been flocking to tribute sites to pay homage to a man who dominated the tracks.

Earnhardt, 49, raced his last lap Sunday at the Daytona 500, where he died of head injuries after a crash. Reports said Friday that a broken lap belt was found after the accident, but officials are still investigating the incident.

After the sudden death of the Kannapolis, N.C., native, a nationwide outpouring of grief has spread onto the Web. Racing site Nascar.com is letting fans write condolences to the Earnhardt family on a message board as well as view videos of Earnhardt's interviews and his son's reaction to the accident.

"Sunday's races will never be the same without the 'Intimidator,'" one fan wrote on the Nascar message board.

Another wrote: "Dale will be sadly missed. He gave his all so that another driver could know the thrill of victory at Daytona."

The Internet has increasingly become a medium to express sentiment and condolences, and Earnhardt is not the first celebrity to prompt tribute sites. Princess Diana died in a Paris car accident in 1997, and the world was still mourning her death a year later, when tribute sites popped up to commemorate the first anniversary of her death. John Lennon tribute sites also sprang up on the 20th anniversary of his death.

The Internet "has international appeal," said Terry Ash, vice president of radio services at MP3.com. "The speed of turn around and the ease of posting material is phenomenal."

MP3.com and a country radio station in Atlanta, Eagle 106.7, have been drawing a significant number of Earnhardt fans to a tribute site since Wednesday. Ash said that in the first eight hours of the Web posting, 51,700 people visited the site. He expects that number to skyrocket to 200,000 visits by the end of Friday.

"The country music fan is typically a Nascar fan, and particularly in the southeast area of the country," Ash said.

The radio station also has pledged to donate revenue to Earnhardt's charity organizations that is generated via tribute songs in an MP3.com program that pays artists based on the number of times people listen to a song.

Individuals are also planning and creating Web sites that honor the racing professional.

One site, Lucas' Dale Earnhardt page, reads, "Due to Dale Earnhardt's untimely death resulting from an accident in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt's page has been temporarily suspended. A memorial site to Dale is planned in the near future."

Earnhardt is remembered as the first and only driver to win the rookie-of-the-year award and the Winston Cup points championship in consecutive years. He was buried Thursday in his hometown in North Carolina.