MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400

Track: Dover International Speedway
Date: 9/23/2001
Car No: 8
Sponsor: Budweiser
Organization: Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Twelve days removed from the horrific Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returned to action at Dover's "Monster Mile". Still numbed by the tragedy, Dale Jr. gave a mourning nation something to cheer about by leading 193 of 400 laps and securing an emotional win. Junior never dropped lower than eighth place. He took the final restart in third and passed Dale Jarrett and Jerry Nadeau in only 12 laps. His three-second lead was erased with a caution on lap 388, but he pulled away on the final restart and put a comfortable 1.576-second cushion between himself and the field. In fitting tribute, Earnhardt Jr. proudly paraded a giant American flag from the window of his Budweiser car while taking his victory celebration laps. "We love winning, but it felt odd to celebrate," Junior said later. "I thought about the big American flag we had in our pit area, and I asked (the team) to bring it to me so I could do a lap for the fans. It was neat to see the fans' reaction."