The death of Correta King brought about mourning from across the country much like the death of Dale Earnhardt. Race car drivers though are not heroes because they aren't very good role models for people and they do not do anything good for other people that required courage and bravery.
First off, race car drivers are not the best examples of heroism in society because a hero does good things for other people. A hero is a person who is noted for feats of courage or nobility that serve a purpose. Race car drivers are merely doing their job and that is it. They have tons of fans but that doesn't necessarily mean they are heroes. Dale Earnhardt has won more than 40 million dollars over his career and has never made any notable contributions to charities. He also relished in his fame and often bragged about being the best driver in NASCAR.
The worship he received from his fans is not because of his courage under fire. The sport is so popular because people think what he does is cool. Many people admire him for what he does but he simply is not a true hero.
Heroes have qualities that appeal to every body. Race car drivers are often sponsored by major alcohol and tobacco companies. If race car drivers were concerned about the audience they appealed to then they would not accept these sponsorships that advertise legal drugs. Not to mention, cheating is rampant in NASCAR. A retired crew chief said that a large part of his job was to find ways to cross the line of fair play and not get caught. I also recall an incident in which a team was caught cheating. They are required to completely fill up their tanks for their qualifying...