The NASCAR Winston Cup Awards Banquet installed Jeff Gordon as the third and youngest four-time champion. Tributes and honors were also paid to the late Dale Earnhardt.
In typical NASCAR fashion each of the top ten drivers received their checks and expressed thanks to the sponsors, the team members, families and friends, and the fans. Tonight, each also had some words about their friend and competitor, Dale Earnhardt.
Earnhardt was named the Most Popular Driver in 2001 by vote of NASCAR fans. The announcement was made by Teresa Earnhardt following a moving musical tribute by Garth Brooks, who sang his hit "The Dance". The song captured the feelings of many have of Earnhardt.
Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars alone
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance
The night belonged to Jeff Gordon who in accepting his check for $4,787,681.00 became the all time NASCAR money winner. He received $3,787,681 for the championship and the No Bull million.
Gordon gave the most penetrating comments about the loss of a true champion. "While it was a great year for us and our team, it was a very tough year for our sport and our country," Gordon said. "For NASCAR, the year started with the huge loss of Dale, and that loss has been there all year long. We'll never forget what he brought to NASCAR and how he helped the sport reach new heights.
"He was a friend to so many and a great competitor. For me personally, I learned an awful lot from him on and off the track and I'll never forget it."
Gordon thanked sponsors, but focused on his love for his team, Rick Hendrick and the losss of Earnhardt.
Tony Stewart provided the humor for the evening, when he complained about the heat, and removed his jacket to reveal he was wearing his Hutchens head and neck restraint device.