2001 Dover winner Earnhardt Jr. sees the "bigger picture" DAYTONA BEACH, Florida, U.S.A. (September 17, 2003) -- After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, NASCAR continued racing at Dover International Speedway on September 23, ...
2001 Dover winner Earnhardt Jr. sees the "bigger picture"
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida, U.S.A. (September 17, 2003) -- After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, NASCAR continued racing at Dover International Speedway on September 23, 2001.
That day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) was able to lift his spirits, along with those of anyone who witnessed his exhilarating victory lap following his first win at Dover International Speedway.
Earnhardt was handed an American flag after crossing the finish line, and he held it high outside his window while he celebrated the victory.
"It was great that we won, but I think the bigger picture about that day was the fact that we were racing, and the stands were full. It didn't matter who won -- the experience itself was important," Earnhardt said.
"It had been like the entire country had shut down for two weeks, and we did our part to jump-start the return to getting on with life," he said. "It was important for us in the garage, for the fans in the stands, and for people across the country. It was an awful time, and I was so, so lucky to be the guy that got to carry that flag around the track."
The emotional victory -- his second of three wins during the 2001 season -- helped put Earnhardt into the NASCAR Top 10 (8th) driver championship standings at the end of the season. Most of last year, however, was a struggle for Earnhardt's No. 8 team. Earnhardt finished 11th in the points in 2002. "We had an awful summer (in 2002) and we turned it around with some changes within the team in August and the results still show," Earnhardt said.
This year, Earnhardt is contending for his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Earnhardt, who has been second to Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford) in the standings for 17 of the season's 28 weeks -- and the last eight in a row -- once again notes the "bigger picture."
"There are always 'what ifs' and 'coulda beens,' but we have a lot of racing left this year," Earnhardt said. "I do look at the points, but as a driver or as a team, we just can't focus on one team. We have to beat 41 other guys out there every weekend. It's not just me and Matt on the track.
"Those guys at the 17 car have had an awesome year, but I'm focused on my team. We're having our own best season in four years of Winston Cup, and I think we continue to get better."