In 2001, the Dodge division of Chrysler Corporation announced it would return to NASCAR Cup Series racing for the first time since the late 1970s, and they assembled a formidable team. Ray Evernham, who left the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet operation in 1999, was hired by MoPar to direct Dodge's effort. Evernham was in charge of Dodge's two-car flagship team with drivers Casey Atwood and Bill Elliott. Other Dodge teams included Bill Davis Racing, Felix Sabates, Melling Racing, and Petty Enterprises, which returned to the Chrysler fold for the first time since 1978.
But the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season was also marked with sadness, as a terrible crash in the final laps of the Daytona 500 took the life of skilled driver and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt.
February 18, 2001: Daytona 500
Michael Waltrip nips Dale Earnhardt, Jr., at the finish line to win the Daytona 500, a tragic affair in which NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt is fatally injured in a last-lap crash. Waltrip's first NASCAR Winston Cup victory turns from a joyous occasion to despair after the loss of NASCAR's most dynamic competitor.
March 11, 2001: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500
Kevin Harvick, replacement driver for the late Dale Earnhardt, stunningly wins the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in only his third career NASCAR Winston Cup start.
Joe Nemechek drove his #33 Chevrolet to a runaway victory in the Nov. 4 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina Speedway. Nemechek was a lame-duck driver with the Andy Petree-owned team, which was losing sponsor Oakwood Homes at the end of the season. Nemechek, who had announced he was leaving Petree's outfit, beat runner-up Kenny Wallace by 6.2 seconds. See more pictures of NASCAR.
March 25, 2001: Food City 500
Elliott Sadler becomes the third first-time winner in the first six races of the season with a triumph in Bristol's Food City 500. Sadler comes from his 38th starting position to nip John Andretti at the finish. It is the Wood Brothers' first win since 1993.
April 22, 2001: Talladega 500
Bobby Hamilton gives team owner Andy Petree his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory in the Talladega 500. Hamilton wins the caution-free race at a sizzling average speed of 184.003 mph.
May 27, 2001: Coca-Cola 600
Jeff Burton ends a personal slump with a big victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart finishes third after his sixth-place effort in the Indianapolis 500 on the same day. Stewart completes all 1100 miles of racing in a heroic doubleheader effort.
Boris Said, an accomplished road racer, was one of the "hired guns" to compete in the Aug. 12 Global Crossing At The Glen on the historic Watkins Glen road course. Driving the #77 Jasper Engines Ford, Said wrestled the car around the 2.45-mile track to an eighth-place finish. That's Jerry Nadeau in the background doing a little agricultural racing through the track's inner loop.
June 17, 2001: Pocono 500
Ricky Rudd outruns Jeff Gordon in the final laps to win the Pocono 500. It is Rudd's first victory in three years and his first with the powerful Robert Yates Ford team.
June 24, 2001: Dodge/Save Mart 350
Tony Stewart scoots past Robby Gordon with 11 laps remaining and scores a victory in the Dodge/
Save Mart 350 at the renamed Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Gordon is poised to grab his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory until the lapped car of Kevin Harvick pushes him out of the way.
July 15, 2001
Rookie Kevin Harvick holds off Robert Pressley to win the inaugural race at Chicagoland Speedway. The victory is Harvick's second of the season. Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett are locked in a tie for the lead in the championship points race.
Bill Elliott's #9 Dodge fades to the upper groove as #40 Sterling Marlin charges past in the late stages of the Aug. 5 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Marlin led the race with 25 laps to go, but was unable to fend off the high-speed exploits of Jeff Gordon, who went on to win his third event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Elliott started on the front row and finished eighth in Ray Evernham's Dodge.
August 19, 2001: Pepsi 400
Sterling Marlin drives a Dodge to victory in the Pepsi 400 at Michigan Speedway for his first win of the season. Marlin breaks the ice in Dodge's return to NASCAR racing. It is the first win for Dodge since Neil Bonnett won at Ontario in 1977.
September 8, 2001: Chevrolet 400
Ricky Rudd prevails in a game of bumper-tag with Kevin Harvick and wins the Chevrolet 400 at Richmond International Speedway. Harvick punches Rudd out of the lead with 18 laps remaining, but Rudd returns the favor 12 laps later.
The Ray Evernham Motorsports Dodges of Bill Elliott and Casey Atwood lead the pace lap of the Nov. 11 Pennzoil Freedom 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Elliott scampered around Atwood with five laps remaining to record his first win since 1994 -- a span of 227 races. It was his 41st career NASCAR Cup Series win.
September 30, 2001: Protection One 400
Jeff Gordon scores a narrow victory over Ryan Newman to win the Protection One 400 at the new Kansas Speedway. Gordon's sixth victory of the season gives him a 222-point lead over Ricky Rudd in the championship race.
October 15, 2001: Old Dominion 500
Underdog Ricky Craven takes the lead in the closing stages of the Old Dominion 500 when Kevin Harvick spins Bobby Hamilton. Craven holds off a late charge by Dale Jarrett to claim his first career NASCAR Winston Cup win. It is also team owner Cal Wells' first trip to victory lane.
November 11, 2001
Bill Elliott passes Dodge teammate Casey Atwood with five laps remaining to end a personal seven-year winless streak with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Elliott gives Ray Evernham his first win as a NASCAR Winston Cup team owner.
Mike Skinner's #31 Chevrolet erupts in flames after plowing into the wall during the early laps of the July 15 Tropicana 400 at the new Chicagoland Speedway. Skinner was able to get out of the car without suffering any burns, a testament to the quality of the fire-retardant uniform that NASCAR mandates. Skinner was badly shaken in the accident and would miss much of the remainder of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season.
November 23, 2001
Robby Gordon speeds to his first NASCAR Winston Cup win in the season finale at New Hampshire International Speedway. The race was postponed from Sept. 16 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Jeff Gordon nabs his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup title by 349 points over Tony Stewart.
Continue to the next page to get full season standings for the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup series.
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