There's cool, and then there's racing without a steering wheel cool.
Instead of losing control, the six-time Talladega winner briefly managed to use the steering column to steer one-handed.
Speaking after the race, Earnhardt said he was lucky in that the racers were under a caution flag the very moment his steering wheel came off.
"I just grabbed the shaft and steered the car that way. I ripped the skin off my hand but I wasn't going to let it hit the wall. That was just some freak deal," he told reporters.
On Monday, NASCAR announced plans to investigate the incident but Earnhardt later tweeted that he was taking "full responsibility for not making sure it was connected properly beforehand."
"There was no issue with the wheel or coupler. This is just a rare case of being in too big a hurry to return to the action," he wrote.
Overall, the steering snafu was just a sliver of his bad luck throughout the race, which saw him crash twice and finish in last place.
Many other drivers saw equally bad luck, however -- destruction-wise.
Multiple cars were seen sliding around the track like ice pucks throughout the race. At one point, seven cars were seen colliding.
Several news outlets called the race a "demolition derby" and a "crazy crash-fest," highlighting the danger in the sport. During the race, one driver was seen going airborne; another driver’s vehicle was briefly engulfed in flames, and yet another driver’s vehicle was seen doing somersaults down the track.
“Safety is first and foremost for all of us," Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday. "We’ll work with the race teams and see what we can learn and then from that apply that to the race cars and the track."