Virgil Earnest Irvan, or Ernie Irvan as he came to be known is best known for his miraculous recovery from a serious head injury. Irvan began racing karts at the age of nine, and went on to win the California Championship at the age of 15. He soon moved up to stock cars and won his very first race, in a semi-main event. Irvan began his full-time career with NASCAR Cup Series in the 1989 season, and the very next year, went on to win 15 series events.
Irvan also won the Daytona 500 in 1991, and finished fifth in the points standings race, his career best. In the 1992 season, he had three major wins at Daytona, Sonoma and Talladega, and also suffered a broken collarbone during a Busch Series race.
The worst accident of his career was yet to come, when three years later Irvan suffered massive head injury, when his car hit a Turn Two wall at nearly 170 mph during a practice session at Michigan Speedway. He made a miraculous recovery and less than two months after the accident received the True Value Hard Charger Award, for having the most laps led in the season.
In 1995, Irvan was back in the cockpit and finished sixth in the October race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He also won the Super Ford Magazine Driver of the Year award in 1993, and the Maxwell House Spirit Awar in 1994 and 1995. Following another head injury caused by a crash in 1999, Ernie Irvan retired from driving, but is still involved with NASCAR in many ways.