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Year of Triumph and Tragedy

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Veteran Gordon Dominates Title Hunt

The 2001 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was one of triumph and tragedy, as stock car racing lost is brightest star while a popular champion visited Victory Lane six times en route to his fourth series title.

The season-opening Daytona 500 transformed into an afternoon of tremendous excitement and deep sadness at the conclusion of the 200-lap race. Michael Waltrip, a longtime driver with no victories in 463 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, pulled off the biggest upset in the history of Daytona International Speedway.

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As he celebrated in Victory Lane following NASCAR’s most prestigious event, word spread that his team owner, Dale Earnhardt, had lost his life during a multi-car crash in Turn 4 of the final lap. Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr., both drivers for Dale Earnhardt Inc., were just ahead of Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolet coming to the checkered flag. Each looked forward to Earnhardt’s presence when trophies were awarded as word quietly spread that the crash had taken his life.

In the weeks that followed, Steve Park, a third DEI driver, won at North Carolina Motor Speedway and helped ease the incredible pain everyone was experiencing. Then relative newcomer Kevin Harvick was hired by Richard Childress Racing to replace Earnhardt in the renumbered 29 Chevy and he won the Atlanta race by a fender over Jeff Gordon.

Gordon’s 40th-place finish in the Daytona 500 threatened to curtail his championship hopes. But his first win came just weeks later at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and from there the native of Vallejo, California, used strong, consistent finishes to climb to the top of the standings. Additional victories at Dover, Michigan, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Kansas paved the way for Gordon’s fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.


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KEVIN HARVICK, driver of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, won at Atlanta and Chicago during his rookie Cup Series season. Even though he had ARCA, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series experience, Harvick had spent little time in the highly competitive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars. Driving in place of the late Earnhardt, the pressure subsided enough to finish ninth in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points.


THE SPRING EVENT AT Bristol Motor Speedway on March 25, 2001, saw Elliott Sadler and John Andretti battle for the win with Sadler going to Victory Lane. Sadler and Andretti were driving

a Ford and Pontiac, respectively, for Wood Brothers Racing and Petty Enterprises. The two revered NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams finished first and second to each other 63 times with David Pearson winning 33 and Richard Petty winning 30 while with those teams.


JEFF GORDON collected five wins in 36 starts driving the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. Dale Jarrett won races at Darlington, Martinsville, Texas and New Hampshire in the No. 88 UPS Ford.



Feb. 18 | Daytona International Speedway | Michael Waltrip

Feb. 26 | North Carolina Motor Speedway | Steve Park

March 4 | Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Jeff Gordon

March 11 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Kevin Harvick

March 18 | Darlington Raceway | Dale Jarrett

March 25 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Elliott Sadler

April 1 | Texas Motor Speedway | Dale Jarrett

April 8 | Martinsville Speedway | Dale Jarrett

April 22 | Talladega Superspeedway | Bobby Hamilton

April 29 | California Speedway | Rusty Wallace

May 5 | Richmond International Raceway | Tony Stewart

May 26 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Jeff Burton

June 3 | Dover International Speedway | Jeff Gordon

June 10 | Michigan International Speedway | Jeff Gordon

June 17 | Pocono Raceway | Ricky Rudd

June 24 | Sonoma Raceway | Tony Stewart

July 7 | Daytona International Speedway | Dale Earnhardt Jr.

July 15 | Chicagoland Speedway | Kevin Harvick

July 22 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Dale Jarrett

July 29 | Pocono Raceway | Bobby Labonte

Aug. 5 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Jeff Gordon

Aug. 12 | Watkins Glen International | Jeff Gordon

Aug. 19 | Michigan International Speedway | Sterling Marlin

Aug. 25 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Tony Stewart

Sept. 2 | Darlington Raceway | Ward Burton

Sept. 8 | Richmond International Raceway | Ricky Rudd

Sept. 23 | Dover International Speedway | Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sept. 30 | Kansas Speedway | Jeff Gordon

Oct. 7 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Sterling Marlin

Oct. 15 | Martinsville Speedway | Ricky Craven

Oct. 21 | Talladega Superspeedway | Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Oct. 28 | Phoenix International Raceway | Jeff Burton

Nov. 4 | North Carolina Motor Speedway | Joe Nemechek

Nov. 11 | Homestead-Miami Speedway | Bill Elliott

Nov. 18 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Bobby Labonte

Nov. 23 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Robby Gordon

North Carolina Moonshine and Motorsports Trail

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