NASCAR fan’s tribute to Dale Earnhardt Sr. leads to $235K NC lottery jackpot

RALEIGH, N.C. — “The Intimidator” must be smiling. And a North Carolina man is digging it.

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A NASCAR fan who counts the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. as a favorite driver bought three Cash 5 tickets in the North Carolina Education Lottery, and one of them came up a big winner -- a $235,001 jackpot.

Luther Dowdy, 63, of Lincolnton, said he bought the three tickets online Monday to honor Earnhardt, who drove car No. 3 during his NASCAR career from 1975 to 2001.

“It was the first time I’ve ever played Cash 5,” Dowdy said in a statement. “I chose Quick Pick three times for Dale Earnhardt.”

Earnhardt was a seven-time Winston Cup series champion who died in a crash at Daytona International Speedway in February 2001.

Dowdy, who works as a grave digger, said he has always been a stock car racing fan. He decided to buy the tickets on a whim while watching television, lottery officials said.

“I about fell out of my chair when I saw how much I won,” Dowdy said after matching all five white balls.

Dowdy went to lottery headquarters on Wednesday. After state and local taxes were withheld, Dowdy walked away with $166,875.

“Now I might be able to retire at the end of this year,” Dowdy told lottery officials.

Dowdy said he would also use the cash to pay off his mortgage and help a neighbor.