By Jack Durbin - Motorsport.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Michael Waltrip won the biggest race of his career and his sport this afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. He broke the longest losing streak in NASCAR Winston Cup racing.
The final laps of the 2001 Daytona 500 were led by Waltrip with team mate Dale Earnhardt, Jr.. Waltrip held off Earnhardt Jr., while Dale Earnhardt held off a charging field led by Sterling Marlin. Earnhardt was involved in a last lap accident in turn 4.
"I thought it was boisterous that we thought we could win this race," Waltrip said to his brother, 1989 Daytona 500 winner Darrell Waltrip, when his elder sibling was connected via radio from the FOX TV broadcast booth. "As soon as I can find Dale Jr., I'm gonna give him a kiss. You can't win this today without help and he was it."
"He had a dream he won the Daytona 500," Michael Waltrip said of his teammate, Jr.'s, well-publicized premonition. "He did -- I'm just here celebrating it."
This is the first win for DEI and the first for Waltrip in 463 starts.
Dale Earnhardt, Waltrip's team owner, was transported directly to Halifax Medical Center after being extricated from his car won in his 463rd start and his first for DEI. In the aftermath of the race-ending accident, Waltrip's team owner Dale Earnhardt was transported directly Halifax Medical Center after being extricated from his car.
"It's just unconscious," Waltrip said in an outburst of emotion, remembering his father, Leroy, who died last year. "Thank God, and thank my father. I just can't believe it I know I never would have won it if Dale Earnhardt didn't believe in me."
The race was red-flagged with 25 laps to go after a backstretch accident involving 19 cars. Tony Stewart's flew into the air and turned over, he was struck by his team mate Bobby Labonte. Stewart was transported directly to Halifax after complaining of shoulder pain.
Updates as they are available.