2001 MBNA Cal Ripken, Jr. 400
|Race 27 of 36 in the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season|
Layout of Dover Downs International Speedway
|Date||September 23, 2001|
|Location||Dover Downs International Speedway|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
1 mi (1.6 km)
|Distance||400 laps, 400 mi (643.737 km)|
|Weather||Temperatures reaching up to 77 °F (25 °C); wind speeds approaching 6 miles per hour (9.7 km/h)|
|Average speed||101.559 miles per hour (163.443 km/h)|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.|
|No. 8||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Allen Bestwick, Benny Parsons, Wally Dallenbach, Jr.|
The 2001 MBNA Cal Ripken, Jr. 400 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series stock car race held on September 23, 2001, at Dover Downs International Speedway. The race was the 27th of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. Dale Jarrett of Yates Racing won the pole position, while Dale Earnhardt, Inc.'s Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led the most laps with 193 and won the race.
The race was the first Cup race run following the September 11 attacks, and to commemorate the occasion, fans were given American flags, and Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA", while Tanya Tucker sang "God Bless America", and a quartet of singers from Delaware State University performed the national anthem. Baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr. served as the grand marshal, and had the race named for him as he was to play in his final game on the evening of the race. After waving the green flag to start the race, Ripken was taken by helicopter to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Also in a sense of patriotism, drivers redesigned their paint schemes in a patriotic theme, while Ken Schrader removed every sponsor and decal from his car, and completely painting the car as an American flag. However, also in the wake of the attacks, coolers, backpacks and large bags were banned from the track, though concession prices were lowered in compensation. The race was also the first to be run against the National Football League regular season since the signing of the consolidated NASCAR TV contract.
In the race, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took the lead on lap three, and dominated much of the first half until a slow pit stop dropped him down to eighth with 140 laps remaining. Earnhardt managed to recover, and was in third by lap 329. On lap 345, Ricky Rudd spun after making contact with Rusty Wallace, and on the restart, Earnhardt was in third behind pole-sitter Dale Jarrett and Jerry Nadeau. Earnhardt eventually took the lead 12 laps later, and never relinquished the lead for the rest of the race, which included holding off Nadeau on the final eight laps. During the final lap, the white flag was not waved, to signify the refusal to surrender. Nadeau finished second, Rudd in third, while Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five. To honor the victims of the attack, Earnhardt drove a Polish victory lap with a large American flag, along with donating $75,000 to relief efforts. Earnhardt stated that he would pledge $100 a lap and $10,000 for every pit stop under 14 seconds.
Earlier in the race, Jeremy Mayfield hit the turn 1 wall after his right-front tire went down, and subsequently lost consciousness, but was able to walk to the infield care center, suffering only a chipped tooth and minor bruises; NASCAR officials inspected Mayfield's car and found a partially torn left lap seat belt, which was damaged in the same fashion as Dale Earnhardt's in the 2001 Daytona 500, which was a factor in his death. A Goodyear spokesman later stated that Mayfield's tire was too damaged to determine what happened; the same had also occurred to Dave Blaney in the race.
Top ten finishers
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – #8
- Jerry Nadeau – #25
- Ricky Rudd – #28
- Jeff Gordon – #24
- Tony Stewart – #20
- Kevin Harvick – #29
- Joe Nemechek – #33
- Sterling Marlin – #40
- Casey Atwood – #19
- Bobby Hamilton, Jr. – #55
Standings after the race
|6||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||3429|
|10||Johnny Benson, Jr.||3168|
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