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Thursday, June 2, 2005
Updated: June 3, 1:02 PM ET
Earnhardt blacked out in '97 Southern 500

Associated Press

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.