Here's the story:
Dale Jr. wins emotional Pepsi 400
By Dave Rodman, Turner Sports Interactive
July 8, 2001
12:33 PM EDT (1633 GMT)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. swapped the tables on his Dale Earnhardt, Inc. teammate Michael Waltrip and scored an emotional victory in the 43rd Pepsi 400 Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his third career Winston Cup win.
With Waltrip running as rear guard, Earnhardt Jr. scored his first NASCAR Winston Cup points victory 11 years to the day his late father, Dale Earnhardt, won his first Winston Cup points race at Daytona. Earnhardt, the career victories leader at Daytona, was killed on the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500 while he ran third behind his two drivers.
Earnhardt ended up .123 seconds ahead of Waltrip. Elliott Sadler finished third, Ward Burton was fourth and Bobby Labonte was fifth.
“Y’all know who that’s for, guys,” Earnhardt Jr. said over his in-car radio back to his crew on his cool-down lap.
“The man behind you did it for you and don’t you forget that,” Earnhardt Jr.’s spotter, DEI vice president Ty Norris, replied.
In a performance ripped from his late father’s Daytona race-winning manual, Earnhardt Jr. charged from sixth on a restart with six laps to go. He was fifth heading into Turn 3 on lap 155, moved to fourth coming off Turn 4 and was in second going into Turn 3 one lap later.
When Dave Blaney, who had started the lap in second, did a magnificent job to keep from wrecking in the middle of a three-wide pack of traffic, Earnhardt Jr. spurted into the lead as lap 156 concluded. He went on to lead 116 of 160 laps, averaging 157.601 mph.
“We had a great car -- it was all car -- 100 percent, I just had to hold on,” said Earnhardt Jr., who profusely thanked crew chief Tony Eury, who had won seven NASCAR Busch Series races here with his father, and car chief Tony Eury Jr.
Of course, Earnhardt Jr. was prodded in the post-race reviews to recall his father.
“He was with me tonight,” he said. “I don’t know I did it, but he was there. I’ll be crying sooner or later -- I don’t know -- I feel pretty good right now. I’m wore out now.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes a pit stop for fuel and tires.
“I dedicate this win to him. I mean, there ain’t nobody else I could dedicate it to that would mean more to me. I want to thank (his father’s widow) Teresa back home -- I hope she’s loving this ‘cause we sure are.”
There was only one caution in the first 140 laps of the race. It occurred from lap 89-92 after Andy Houston hit the wall in Turn 4.
Two cautions occurred in the last 20 laps, one of them a melee that involved no less than 12 cars and eliminated possible winners Sterling Marlin, Mike Skinner and Jeff Gordon. Two laps after the race went back to green, Gordon had an oil line come loose, bringing out the third and final caution and setting up the final six-lap shootout.
“I hope them fans enjoyed it,” the winner said. “I know I was out front a lot but I didn’t know what else to do. Michael came in there the last two laps and I knew I didn’t have a whole lot to worry about. It was just a great race all the way around.” Earnhardt Jr. all night had set the stage for a tremendously heartwarming finale to more than four months of mourning for his father. Junior led huge chunks of the race after starting 13th and seemed to have the dominant car from the time he took the lead for the second time, at lap 57.
Waltrip confirmed that but said he played his role and winning this race was not it.
“I knew I was good but you never knew if you were gonna hit the hole,” Waltrip said of his move to get behind his teammate. “I hit the hole and that was my part. I didn’t even think about it (passing Earnhardt Jr.) -- I wasn’t gonna pass him for nothing -- I just wanted to push him home.”
I just want to give a congratulations to him for winning the Pepsi400!