As the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season began with the Daytona 500, it became clear that action on the track had changed. Far from the 50 to 60 lead changes in a race that had been common in NASCAR's history, "aero-push" -- turbulence caused by the new aerodynamic cars that made passing difficult -- now kept a firmer grasp on the lead.
In an attempt to spice things up, NASCAR introduced some new rules in time for the October 15, 2000, race at Talladega. A small blade attached to the top of each car made the vehicles less stable, which added to the challenge for their drivers.
Revisit other highlights of the 2000 season with the NASCAR Winston Cup chronology that follows:
February 20, 2000: Daytona 500
Dale Jarrett exercises patience to grab his third victory in the Daytona 500. After following Johnny Benson, Jr., for 50 miles, Jarrett makes the decisive pass with four laps to go to beat Jeff Burton.
March 12, 2000
Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte engage in a terrific late-race duel at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Earnhardt leads the final 20 laps and nips Labonte at the finish line by a bumper to score his 75th career NASCAR Winston Cup victory.
Tony Stewart blazes down the front chute at Dover Downs International Speedway during the June 4 MBNA Platinum 400. Stewart authored a decisive romp in the 400-miler, leading 242 of the 400 laps. The sophomore sensation drove aggressively as most of his rivals took a conservative approach due to heavy tire wear. Stewart wore the competition down and scampered to an easy victory over rookie Matt Kenseth. See more pictures of NASCAR.
March 19, 2000: mall.com 400
Ward Burton ends a five-year victory famine with a win in the mall.com 400 at Darlington Raceway. Burton leads the final 37 laps and finishes 1.4 seconds ahead of Dale Jarrett to take his second career win.
April 2, 2000
Third-generation driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is the class of the field, winning the 500-miler at Texas Motor Speedway for his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory. Earnhardt, Jr., wins comfortably over Jeff Burton.
April 16, 2000: DieHard 500
Jeff Gordon comes from the 36th starting position, takes the lead six laps from the finish, and wins the DieHard 500 at Talladega for his 50th career victory.
Dale Earnhardt took command of the June 19 Pocono 500 with 16 laps remaining and held a narrow advantage entering the final lap. Coming across the treacherous "tunnel turn," Jeremy Mayfield popped Earnhardt sideways and slipped past to record his third career win. "I was just rattling his cage a little," said Mayfield, who was met with both boos and cheers as he crossed the finish. Earnhardt regained the handle of his car, but dropped to fourth in the final mile.
May 28, 2000: Coca-Cola 600
Rookie driver Matt Kenseth outruns Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in the final laps and wins the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Kenseth, who leads the final 26 laps, is the 11th different winner in the first 12 races on the 2000 calendar.
June 19, 2000: Pocono 500
Jeremy Mayfield rubs Dale Earnhardt out of the way on the final lap and speeds to victory in the Pocono 500. It is Mayfield's third career NASCAR Winston Cup win.
July 9, 2000
Tony Stewart outruns Joe Nemechek in the final laps and is declared the winner at New Hampshire when a thunderstorm shortens the scheduled 300-lapper to 273 laps. Kenny Irwin, Jr., a promising young star, is killed in a practice crash.
Jeff Gordon runs through one of the tight corners at Sears Point Raceway during the June 25 Save Mart/Kragen 300. Gordon pulled off one of racing's most astonishing feats by winning his sixth consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup event on a road course. Gordon led the final 27 laps on the 1.949-mile California trackand drove to a comfortable win over runner-up Sterling Marlin.
July 23, 2000: Pennsylvania 500
Rusty Wallace takes advantage of Jeremy Mayfield's misfortune and wins the Pennsylvania 500, taking the lead on the final lap. Mayfield's victory bid is thwarted when he suffers a flat tire, allowing Wallace to take his second win of the season.
August 13, 2000
Steve Park wins in an upset at Watkins Glen for his first victory on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Top road racers Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon tangle on the first lap, effectively removing both from contention.
September 3, 2000: Pepsi Southern 500
Bobby Labonte, who fails to lead a single green-flag lap, wins the rain-shortened Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. After starting 37th, Labonte grabs the lead with a quick caution-flag pit stop and is out front when a thunderstorm brings the race to a halt.
Jeff Gordon started 36th in the April 16 DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, one of the worst qualifying efforts of his career. After the halfway point, Gordon flexed his muscles. Here, he dives under #99 Jeff Burton and #40 Sterling Marlin on his way to the front. Gordon drove past Mark Martin and led the final six laps to score the victory. Ten drivers exchanged the lead 27 times in the hotly contested affair.
September 17, 2000
Jeff Burton leads all 300 laps in his win at New Hampshire International Speedway. Burton becomes the first driver to lead every lap in a superspeedway event since Fireball Roberts did it at Hanford, Calif., in 1961.
October 15, 2000: Winston 500
Seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt makes a miraculous comeback to win the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt comes from 18th to first in the final five laps and edges Kenny Wallace.
Flashy rookies Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Matt Kenseth battle in the April 2 DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Earnhardt, Jr., in only his 12th NASCAR Winston Cup start, drove his #8 Chevrolet to his first career victory. He led the most laps and drove away from all challengers down the stretch. Kenseth was in contention until a cut tire forced him into the wall on the 290th lap.
November 20, 2000
Jerry Nadeau holds off Dale Earnhardt to post his first career victory in the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Bobby Labonte finishes fifth and takes the NASCAR Winston Cup championship by 261 points over Jeff Burton. Darrell Waltrip uses a champion's provisional to enter the race and finishes 34th, seven laps off the pace. It is the final race of Waltrip's illustrious career.
November 28, 2000
Mike Helton succeeds Bill France, Jr., as NASCAR president. "Mike is well-suited to carry on the tradition of strong leadership at NASCAR. Not only within our offices, but for the entire industry," notes France, Jr.
With a new millennium, some new rules, and a new champion, the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season was packed with excitement. See how the final standings lined up with our easy-to-read chart on the next page.
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