As Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates his final full-time racing season, and makes his last visits to tracks around NASCAR as a driver, the memorable moments from each facility are celebrated.
When it comes to Dover International Speedway, one moment clearly stands above all others.
Earnhardt’s only victory at the Monster Mile came in the MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400 on Sept. 23, 2001, just 12 days after the horrific terrorist attacks on New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11.
In front of more than 130,000 fans, Earnhardt’s victory lap with a huge American flag has become one of the most iconic images of Dover’s and NASCAR’s history.
As Earnhardt prepares to get behind the wheel for the final time at the Monster Mile for Sunday’s “Apache Warrior 400 presented by Lucas Oil” Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race, Dover International Speedway officials gave NASCAR’s most popular driver a touching memento of that special moment.
Earnhardt was presented with a bronze trophy memorializing that special win as part of a farewell press conference at the Speedway’s Infield Media Center.
“No matter who had won that race that day, they would have done the same thing – done something to express their feelings,” Earnhardt said. “You could sense in the grandstands what was building. I feel very lucky I got to win that race under those circumstances. It was a very special win for me. I’ll have this [trophy] to remember that day for a very long time.
“I want to thank Dover and the staff here. They have a unique history in the sport. Everything about this place is first class. We’ve always enjoyed coming here and I look forward to coming here for many more years to come.”
Also during the press conference, Earnhardt reflected on the growing importance of family in his life, the potential of fantasy sports in NASCAR’s future and the potential of him running in some short-track races in the future.
“I think I would come in and just race,” Earnhardt said. “I imagine it’s hard to just quit [racing] cold turkey.”
As for Earnhardt’s legacy at the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway President and CEO Mike Tatoian says that was cemented long ago.
“Your win was the most significant in our history,” Tatoian said during the ceremony. “It was bigger than Miles the Monster, it was bigger than the sport.
“We appreciate what you’ve done for our track, your contributions on the track, and, even more importantly, off the track. Congratulations on a terrific career.”
Earnhardt qualified seventh and finished seventh in the“Apache Warrior 400 presented by Lucas Oil” Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Sunday, Oct. 1
DALE EARNHARDT JR. CAREER STATISTICS AT DOVER
Top 5 finishes: 7
Top 10 finishes: 13
Laps Led: 451