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Ernie Irvin    

Retired Stock Car Racing Driver

Virgil Earnest "Ernie" Irvan, occasionally referred to as "Swervin' Irvan", is a retired American stock car racing driver. A former competitor in NASCAR, he is best remembered for his comeback after a serious head injury at Michigan International Speedway. He is inducted in numerous halls of fame and was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. After a series of concussions in the late 1990s, Irvan retired from racing in 1999.

In August 1994, Irvan was a contender for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championship throughout the first 20 races of the season. Entering the GM Goodwrench Dealer 400 at Michigan on August 21, Irvan was in a close battle with Dale Earnhardt as the class of the field. His contention for the championship ended during a Friday early-morning practice session at Michigan. According to drivers on the track, the car cut a right front tire, sending Irvan into the turn two wall at over 170 miles per hour. Emergency workers at the track extricated him from the car, and he was immediately airlifted to Saint Joseph's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was diagnosed with critical brain and lung injuries and given only a 10% chance of surviving the night.

Throughout the first eight months of 1995, Irvan remained focused on returning to Winston Cup racing. He went through rehabilitation and strength training to regain his physical strength. On September 16, NASCAR cleared Irvan for competition. Irvan returned for the 1997 season and notched his 15th career win. The victory came in June at Michigan Speedway, the track that nearly claimed his life three years earlier. Irvan ran up five top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and two pole positions and earned $1,614,281. Irvan finished 14th in the Winston Cup points standings. It was his last season driving for Robert Yates; he was released after the end of the season.

On August 20, exactly five years after his near fatal accident there, Irvan crashed at Michigan while driving his own No. 84 Irvan-Simo Federated Auto Parts Pontiac in a practice session for the Busch Series race. Irvan was again airlifted from the track and was diagnosed with a mild head injury and a bruised lung as a result of the accident.

Two weeks later, on September 3, 1999, surrounded by his wife and two children, Irvan announced his retirement from driving at a tearful press conference in Darlington, South Carolina. While he would fully recover before the end of the 1999 season, the reasoning for his retirement was to prevent future incidents while he had a family to support.

Irvan finished his Winston Cup career as a driver with 15 victories, 22 poles, 68 top-fives, 124 top-10s and over 11 million dollars in career earnings.

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