2001 Daytona 500

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2001 Daytona 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 1 of 36 in the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
The layout of Daytona International Speedway, where the race was held.
The layout of Daytona International Speedway, where the race was held.
Date February 18, 2001 (2001-02-18)
Official name Daytona 500 by Dodge
Location Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida, US
Course Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
Distance 200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)
Weather Warm with temperatures reading up to 79 °F (26 °C); wind speeds up to 29.92 miles per hour (48.15 km/h)
Average speed 161.783 miles per hour (260.365 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Evernham Motorsports
Time 49.029
Qualifying race winners
Duel 1 Winner Sterling Marlin Chip Ganassi Racing
Duel 2 Winner Mike Skinner Richard Childress Racing
Most laps led
Driver Ward Burton Bill Davis Racing
Laps 53
No. 15 Michael Waltrip Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Television in the United States
Network Fox
Announcers Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds
Nielsen Ratings 10.0

The 2001 Daytona 500, the 43rd running of the event, was the first race of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule. It was held on February 18, 2001 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, consisting of 200 laps and 500 miles on the 2.5-mile (4 km) asphalt tri-oval. The race was the first ever Winston Cup telecast shown by the Fox network, which had received broadcasting rights along with NBC at the end of the previous season, replacing the two former NASCAR broadcasting channels CBS and ESPN. Bill Elliott won the pole and Michael Waltrip, in his first race in the No. 15 car for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., won the race. This was the first Winston Cup victory of his career, coming in his 463rd start after 462 races without a win. His teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second and Rusty Wallace finished third.

On the final lap, a major accident was triggered by 1998 Daytona 500 winner and seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt losing control of his car and collecting Ken Schrader in a head-on collision with the outside retaining wall. Three cars were involved in the crash, which caused Earnhardt's death.[3] The race was also marred by an 18-car pileup on lap 173 that began when Ward Burton made contact with Robby Gordon, sending Tony Stewart flipping twice down the backstretch. After Earnhardt's death (as well as other notable deaths of other drivers in other NASCAR national touring series in the previous season), NASCAR implemented rigorous safety improvements in later seasons.

Race summary[edit]

Polesitter Bill Elliott led the field to the green flag, but he only led one lap before Sterling Marlin (the winner of the first 125-mile qualifying race three days earlier) passed him for the lead. On lap 29, Rusty Wallace drove into his pit after one of his tires had suddenly gone flat. NASCAR determined that he had exceeded the pit road speed limit on his way in and he was consequently issued a 15-second penalty. As a result, he went a lap down and attempted to make up for it by skipping the first scheduled pit stop. The first caution came out on lap 49 when Jeff Purvis bounced off the wall between turns 3 & 4. The race restarted and stayed under a long green-flag run that lasted 105 laps, in which Ward Burton led the most. On lap 87, Dale Earnhardt and rookie Kurt Busch made door-to-door contact coming out of turn 4 while battling for fifth place. Earnhardt promptly flipped Busch the bird at 185 mph or, as described by lap-by-lap commentator Mike Joy, he simply was saying "Kurt, you're number 1".[4]

The second caution came out on lap 157 when Busch, trying to pass Joe Nemechek, hit the turn 3 wall and slid across the track right through the infield and onto pit road. On lap 167, Steve Park took the lead, only to be passed by his teammate Michael Waltrip on the next lap.

On lap 173, a huge crash eliminated 18 cars in a spectacular fashion. This began when Robby Gordon, coming onto the backstraightaway, turned Ward Burton in the outside lane. Burton then hit Tony Stewart, who turned back across the middle of the racetrack, collecting most of the field behind him. Stewart took the worst ride of any driver in that crash, as his car turned against the wall after being hit by Burton, caught a pocket of air, got pushed airborne over Robby Gordon and flipped over twice, and then landed on top of Jason Leffler before coasting to a stop in the infield. Bobby Labonte's hood broke off and got attached to Stewart's car, causing his engine to catch fire. Stewart's vehicle was instantly described as something similar to Richard Petty's rollover crash in the 1988 race. Mark Martin collided first with the outside wall and then got hit by at least two other cars, destroying the rear end of his. Martin managed to limp his car back to pit road and abandon it. Also involved in this crash were Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Andy Houston, Buckshot Jones, Dale Jarrett (the defending Daytona 500 winner), Jeff Burton, Elliott Sadler, Kenny Wallace, John Andretti, and Jerry Nadeau. Only a few drivers, including Earnhardt; Elliott; Ron Hornaday Jr.; and Ken Schrader, were able to avoid the crash with intact cars. The race was red-flagged for extensive cleanup. When the red flag was over, the race restarted on lap 180, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the lead. Marlin led the next three laps before Waltrip took over again.

With less than two laps remaining, Darrell Waltrip in the Fox Sports booth commented that "Sterling [Marlin] ha[d] beat the front end off of that...that ole Dodge just trying to get around Dale [Earnhardt]." As the white flag waved for the final lap, both Earnhardt and his son Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were right behind Waltrip. Earnhardt Jr. was in second-place in front of his father. Heading into turn 3, Earnhardt, holding third-place, ran in the middle lane of the pack. Marlin, who was behind him on his left, ran in the inside one. R. Wallace drove his navy blue No. 2 Penske Racing Ford directly behind Earnhardt, and Schrader ran in the outside lane driving his yellow No. 36 Pontiac. Just as the field headed into turn 4, Marlin came into contact with the left rear on Earnhardt's car, causing the black No. 3 to slide off the track's steep banking onto the flat apron. Trying to correct at speed, Earnhardt sharply turned it up the track toward the outside retaining wall. Although it briefly looked as if he was going to avoid hitting the retaining wall, Earnhardt went right into Schrader's path and Schrader rammed into him behind the passenger door causing Earnhardt's car to snap, rapidly changing its angle toward the wall. As Schrader came into contact, Earnhardt crashed into the wall nose-first at an estimated speed of 155–160 mph. Both cars slid down the steep banking off the track and into the infield grass.

Seconds later, Waltrip (after 462 races without a win) raced to the checkered flag to claim his first Winston Cup victory, with his teammate Earnhardt, Jr. finishing second. R. Wallace finished third, Ricky Rudd finished fourth, Elliott (the polesitter) finished fifth, R. Wallace's brother Mike finished sixth, Marlin (who got loose after making contact with Earnhardt) finished seventh, Bobby Hamilton finished eighth, Jeremy Mayfield finished ninth, and outside polesitter Stacy Compton came across the line tenth. Nemechek finished 11th on the lead lap. Earnhardt and Schrader were credited finishing 12th and 13th despite not finishing the race. Just after Waltrip won, the caution came out; this shielded them in their finishing spots.[5] After crossing the finish line behind his teammate, Earnhardt, Jr. got out of his car and rushed over to his father's situation. Earnhardt was extricated from his car and was transported by ambulance to the nearby Halifax Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 5:16pm EST, reportedly surrounded by his wife Teresa, his team owner and closest friend Richard Childress, and his son Earnhardt, Jr. The official announcement of Earnhardt's death was made at about 7:00pm EST by NASCAR president Mike Helton. The death of the seven-time Winston Cup Champion largely overshadowed Waltrip's first Winston Cup victory as well as the 18-car crash on lap 173.


Pos Grid Car No. Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Laps Led Status
1 19 15 Michael Waltrip Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet 200 27 Running
2 6 8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet 200 13 Running
3 12 2 Rusty Wallace Penske Racing Ford 200 0 Running
4 30 28 Ricky Rudd Robert Yates Racing Ford 200 0 Running
5 1 9 Bill Elliott (W) Evernham Motorsports Dodge 200 1 Running
6 27 7 Mike Wallace Ultra Motorsports Ford 200 0 Running
7 3 40 Sterling Marlin (W) Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge 200 39 Running
8 35 55 Bobby Hamilton Andy Petree Racing Chevrolet 200 0 Running
9 38 12 Jeremy Mayfield Penske Racing Ford 200 0 Running
10 2 92 Stacy Compton Melling Racing Dodge 200 0 Running
11 32 33 Joe Nemechek Andy Petree Racing Chevrolet 200 0 Running
12 7 3 Dale Earnhardt (W) Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 199 17 Contact T4 (fatal)
13 14 36 Ken Schrader MB2 Motorsports Pontiac 199 0 Contact T4
14 39 77 Robert Pressley Jasper Motorsports Ford 199 0 Flagged
15 43 11 Brett Bodine Brett Bodine Racing Ford 199 1 Flagged
16 28 45 Kyle Petty Petty Enterprises Dodge 199 0 Flagged
17 42 14 Ron Hornaday, Jr. (R) A. J. Foyt Racing Pontiac 199 0 Flagged
18 40 21 Elliott Sadler Wood Brothers Racing Ford 199 0 Flagged
19 8 99 Jeff Burton Roush Racing Ford 199 0 Flagged
20 21 19 Casey Atwood (R) Evernham Motorsports Dodge 198 0 Flagged
21 16 17 Matt Kenseth Roush Racing Ford 196 0 Flagged
22 31 88 Dale Jarrett (W) Robert Yates Racing Ford 186 1 Contact BS
23 18 32 Ricky Craven PPI Motorsports Ford 185 0 Flagged
24 34 5 Terry Labonte Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 184 0 Contact BS
25 23 27 Kenny Wallace Eel River Racing Pontiac 184 0 Contact BS
26 4 31 Mike Skinner Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 183 24 Flagged
27 11 26 Jimmy Spencer Haas-Carter Motorsports Ford 183 0 Flagged
28 33 10 Johnny Benson, Jr. MBV Motorsports Pontiac 181 0 Engine
29 29 44 Buckshot Jones (R) Petty Enterprises Dodge 181 0 Contact BS
30 13 24 Jeff Gordon (W) Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 178 11 Contact BS
31 25 1 Steve Park Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet 177 2 Flagged
32 5 25 Jerry Nadeau Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 176 0 Contact BS
33 22 6 Mark Martin Roush Racing Ford 175 1 Contact BS
34 15 01 Jason Leffler (R) Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge 174 0 Contact BS
35 10 22 Ward Burton Bill Davis Racing Dodge 173 53 Contact BS
36 24 20 Tony Stewart Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac 173 0 Contact BS
37 41 4 Robby Gordon Morgan-McClure Motorsports Chevrolet 173 0 Contact BS
38 9 96 Andy Houston (R) PPI Motorsports Ford 173 0 Contact BS
39 36 43 John Andretti Petty Enterprises Dodge 173 0 Contact BS
40 37 18 Bobby Labonte Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac 173 3 Contact BS
41 26 97 Kurt Busch (R) Roush Racing Ford 169 0 Flagged
42 20 93 Dave Blaney Bill Davis Racing Dodge 135 0 Engine
43 17 51 Jeff Purvis Phoenix Racing Ford 47 0 Contact FS
Failed to qualify
71 Dave Marcis Marcis Auto Racing Chevrolet
66 Todd Bodine Haas-Carter Motorsports Ford
90 Hut Stricklin Donlavey Racing Ford
50 Rick Mast Midwest Transit Racing Chevrolet
37 Derrike Cope (W) Quest Motor Racing Pontiac
84 Norm Benning (R) Norm Benning Racing Chevrolet
85 Carl Long (R) Mansion Motorsports Ford
80 Morgan Shepherd Hover Motorsports Ford
72 Dwayne Leik (R) Marcis Auto Racing Chevrolet



  1. ^ "Sprint Cup Series Schedule". ESPN. Retrieved May 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Weather Information for the 2001 Daytona 500". The Old Farmer's Almanac. Archived from the original on 2013-06-22. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ CNNSI.com: Earnhardt autopsy report answers, leaves questions
  4. ^ Lap114
  5. ^ Official results of 2001 Daytona 500 on Racing-Reference.info
  6. ^ "2001 Daytona 500 - Racing-Reference.info". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2013-06-10.