Earnhardt blacked out in '97 Southern 500

LEXINGTON, N.C. – NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt acknowledged
on a life insurance application shortly before his death that he
once had a dizzy spell during a race – apparently a 1997 event in
South Carolina in which he crashed.

The disclosure was contained in 41 previously sealed exhibits in
a lawsuit against insurer United of Omaha, which refused to pay
millions of dollars to Earnhardt's widow after he died in a crash
at the Daytona 500 in 2001.

United of Omaha claims the policy was never valid for Earnhardt
because he had not taken a required physical.

The exhibits were made public Thursday after several news
organizations, including The Associated Press and The Charlotte
Observer, went to court and asked for them. Testimony in the case
continued Thursday.

In the insurance application, submitted a month before the fatal
crash, Earnhardt admitted in a handwritten note that he experienced
"dizziness in race in Darlington" about three years earlier.
Earnhardt crashed in the first turn of the 1997 Southern 500 in
Darlington, S.C., after blacking out twice at the wheel.

The note indicated that no cause was found for the dizziness and
that Earnhardt returned to racing immediately and experienced no
further symptoms.

Richard Childress Racing, Earnhardt's employer, took out the
$3.7 million policy with United of Omaha and is pursuing the matter
on the family's behalf. Another insurer has already paid a $3.5
million claim.