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2001 will be remembered for many things. It will be remembered as the year the two twin towers came crashing down in New York and the year that George W. Bush became President of the United States of America. It will be remembered as the year that gave us a start to many popular film franchises like Harry Potter, The Fast and the Furious, and Shrek. It will be remembered as the year when George Harrison died and the New York Yankees lost the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. But for me, I will always remember 2001 as the year for NASCAR racing.

Today, I am going to be doing an article on the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Season and discuss all the merchandise I own from this season of NASCAR.

Me and my family used to be huge NASCAR fans back in the 1990's and Early 2000's. My mom was a Dale Earnhardt fan, my dad was a John Andretti fan, and I was a Bill Elliott fan (until he retired, then I became a Jeff Gordon fan). Back when they were fans of the sport, my parents used to love buying toy diecast cars for every NASCAR driver we could find for me to play with as a kid. We would find these cars in stores like Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, KB Toys, or Toys "R" Us. Over the years, we lost interest in the sport and no longer like it as much as we used to, but that is a whole another story I could get into in a whole other article.

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I was 6 in 2001, and for me and my mom especially, this was a very emotional season. It was the year that Dale Earnhardt died in the 43rd running of the Daytona 500. It was the first season where FOX, NBC, FX, and TNT broadcasted NASCAR races instead of CBS, ABC, ESPN, and TBS. It was the year when Dodge returned to the sport for the first time in 16 years and nearly every driver in the Winston Cup Series got a new sponsorship with a new layout for their cars.

For me, this season was my absolute favorite in NASCAR and I consider it to be the greatest racing season of all time in the sport's entire history. It was a huge step up in every way from the previous seasons.

NASCAR ON FOX:

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FOX began their coverage of NASCAR at the very beginning of the season starting with the 2001 Daytona 500. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds were the new race announcers for the first half of the season.

I thought FOX's coverage of NASCAR was excellent at the time and I remember my family being so excited when they started their coverage of NASCAR. I thought their coverage of NASCAR races were a huge improvement over CBS, ESPN, and ABC's coverage and the music and graphics were excellent for their time as well.

2001 Daytona 500:

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The 2001 Daytona 500 was also an excellent race and probably the greatest Daytona 500 the sport had ever had at this point.

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On lap 173, a huge crash eliminated 18 cars in a spectacular fashion. This began when Robby Gordon, coming onto the backstraightaway, turned Ward Burton in the outside lane. Burton then hit Tony Stewart, who turned back across the middle of the racetrack, collecting most of the field behind him. Stewart took the worst ride of any driver in that crash, as his car turned against the wall after being hit by Burton, caught a pocket of air, got pushed airborne over Robby Gordon and flipped over twice, and then landed on top of Jason Leffler before coasting to a stop in the infield. Bobby Labonte's hood broke off and got attached to Stewart's car, causing his engine to catch fire. Tony Stewart was instantly taken to Halifax Medical Center after the crash.

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It was all perfect until turn 3 of the last lap...

While Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 1st and 2nd in the Daytona 500, on the last turn of the race, Sterling Marlin bumped Dale Earnhardt to get ahead of him. Dale Earnhardt swerved his car and lost control, going up the track and ran into Kenny Schrader's car, sending him straight forward head on into the wall. Earnhardt was instantly killed by the crash, getting a vascular skull fracture.

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The news that Dale Earnhardt had died was announced two hours after the race had ended. I can still remember the horror of that night when I woke up from a long nap and heard my mom crying very hard telling me Dale Earnhardt was dead. It was the hardest I had ever seen my mom cry. I was only six years old, but I can still remember this day and how everything turned out. This was one of the most horrific days of my early childhood seeing my own mother cry like that and hearing that the arguably greatest NASCAR driver in history had just died in the Daytona 500.

This day was and still is the darkest day in NASCAR history and one of the darkest days in sports history period. That it happened on the first and biggest race of the year and the first ever NASCAR race broadcasted on FOX was what made it even more tragic. The fact that my own father was at this race made it even more tragic...

Kevin Harvick:

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After Dale Earnhardt died, Richard Childress announced second-year Busch Series driver Kevin Harvick was going to be Dale Earnhardt's replacement. Kevin Harvick began racing in the Winston Cup Series in the 2001 Dura Lube 400 at North Carolina Speedway. His sponsorship layout for his car was just like Dale Earnhardt's except his car was white and he drove with the number 29.

I remember my mom at the time instantly becoming a Kevin Harvick fan after this announcement was made even though she believed nobody could replace Dale Earnhardt.

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And who could forget this race...

On the last five laps of the race, Kevin Harvick became the leader of the whole race after a five-car battle. On the final lap, Harvick managed to win his first Winston Cup Series race from Gordon by .006 seconds in his third start. Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon had the same exact finish that Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte had in the previous year's Cracker Barrel 500.

I remember my mom jumping up and down in tears so excited after Kevin Harvick won this race. For us, this was the beginning of the healing process after what happened in February.

Diecast Cars That I Have:

Dale Earnhardt:

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I got this car that Dale Earnhardt drove for the 2001 Budweiser Shootout when he drove a Oreo Goodwrench Service Plus car. It was super cool to have as a kid.

Steve Park:

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One of my favorite NASCAR drivers of mine was Steve Park, who drove the yellow and black striped Penzoil car.

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This was one of my favorite NASCAR diecast cars as a kid and I loved playing with it.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:

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Jeff Gordon:

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For the 2001 season, Jeff Gordon got a completely new paint job for his Dupont layout scheme on his car. Instead of having a rainbow on his car, he had orange flames with the rest of the car blue. I thought this new sponsorship looked so cool as a kid.

Bill Elliott:

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For the 2001 season, Bill Elliot got a completely new sponsorship and a new paint job for his layout scheme on his car. Instead of driving the McDonald's car with a number 94, he drove a Dodge car with a number 9.

Kevin Harvick:

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Michael Waltrip:

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The 2001 season was also Michael Waltrip's first time driving for Earnhardt Incorporated. He drove a Napa car with the number 15.

Kyle Petty:

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For the 2001 season, Kyle Petty got a completely new sponsorship and a new paint job for his layout scheme on his car. He drove a Sprint car with the number 45.

Ricky Rudd:

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Jeff Burton:

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Casey Atwood:

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For the 2001 season, Casey Atwood was Bill Elliot's teammate for Evernham Motorsports.

Terry Labonte:

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Dale Jarrett:

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For the 2001 season, Dale Jarrett got a completely new sponsorship and a new paint job for his layout scheme on his car. Instead of driving a blue Ford Quality Care car, he drove a white and brown UPS car.

Mark Martin:

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For the 2001 season, Mark Martin got a completely new sponsorship and a new paint job for his layout scheme on his car. Instead of driving a Vaseline car, he drove a Pfizer car.

Brett Bodine:

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Elliott Sadler:

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Jerry Nadeau:

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Bobby Hamilton:

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The Official 2001 NASCAR Preview and Press Statistics Magazine Guide:

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The Official NASCAR Preview and Press Guide was a statistics magazine that my parents used buy every new NASCAR season. It showcased each team and driver and details for every track, every stat, and all schedules for the forthcoming NASCAR season.

We loved buying this seasonal magazine because it was the only source for all things NASCAR. This annual publication provided fans with the complete season-in-review round-up, while it introduced each team, each driver, and details about each track. This essential NASCAR publication has long been considered the NASCAR bible and the must-have reference for any fan -- serious or casual. Full of colorful photographs and exciting motorsport writing, the Preview and Press Guide includes the complete NASCAR schedule, track and ticket information, and all the stats, records, and results that racing fans wanted to know.

NASCAR ON NBC:

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On July 7, 2001, NBC broadcasted their first ever NASCAR race for the 2001 Pepsi 400. Allen Bestwick, Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach were the new race announcers for the second half of the season.

I thought NBC's coverage of NASCAR was excellent as well and I loved "Fuel" by Metallica being their theme song as well.

2001 Pepsi 400:

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The 2001 Pepsi 400 was an excellent race as well. It was the first race at Daytona after Dale Earnhardt had died in the 2001 Daytona 500.

After five laps were remaining, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took back the lead, and with drafting assistance from Michael Waltrip, claimed the victory of the whole race.

I remember my family watching this race and being so excited when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race. This was the second and final step in the healing process after what happened in February.

NASCAR Coca-Cola Cans:

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During the 2001 season, Coca Cola released drinks with all kinds of different NASCAR drivers on them. My parents would go to the store and buy these drinks just so we could collect them. We got ones with Bill Elliot, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Ricky Rudd, John Andretti, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton on them.

Well, that's all the merchandise I own from the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season and that concludes the article on this season of NASCAR. Please leave me your thoughts on the article and thanks for reading!

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