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The 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season was the 53rd season of professional stock car racing in the United States, the 30th modern-era Cup series, and the first Cup season of the 21st century and the 3rd millennium. It began on February 11, 2001, at Daytona International Speedway and ended on November 23, 2001, at New Hampshire International Speedway. Dale Earnhardt of Richard Childress Racing was declared as the series champion for the 8th time in twenty-six years.

2001 was the first year to have a unified television contract with Fox Sports, NBC Sports, and Turner Sports broadcasting the season's races; previous seasons saw each racetrack negotiate their own TV coverage, creating a patchwork of broadcast companies covering races throughout the season. Dodge returned to the sport for the first time since 1985. Chevrolet captured the NASCAR Manufacturers' Championship with 16 wins and 248 points.

Facts

  • There were 19 different race winners, a new record for the series.
    • Four of these race winners won a Winston Cup race for the first time: Michael Waltrip in the Daytona 500, Elliott Sadler in the spring Bristol race, Ricky Craven in the fall Martinsville race, and Robby Gordon in the season finale at New Hampshire.
  • There were six first-time pole sitters in the 2001 Cup season: Stacy Compton, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Jason Leffler, Casey Atwood and Jeff Green. Up until Atwood's lead lap finish at Phoenix, the best finish for a first-time pole sitter was Leffler, when he finished 32nd at Kansas. He was on the lead lap with nine to go there, only to wreck. Compton finished 43rd at Talladega, as did Newman at Charlotte. Busch came in 42nd after a crash at Darlington, and Green came in 39th after one in Bristol.
  • 2001 marked the 2nd full time Cup season that Mark Martin failed to win a race. His first winless season was in 1996. Martin finished 12th in the standings, making this the first time since 1988 that Martin didn't finish in the top 10 in points, ending a streak of 12 consecutive seasons.
  • Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin, and Ricky Rudd each won a Winston Cup race for the first time since 1994, 1996, and 1998.
  • No rookies competed in all 36 races during this year; The closest were Kurt Busch, and Casey Atwood with 35. Atwood did not qualify for the spring Atlanta race, and Busch failed to qualify for the fall race in Atlanta.
  • This was supposed to be the last season finale to be held at Atlanta. However, due to the September 11 attacks, the fall New Hampshire race was postponed until the first available date, which came after the Atlanta event.
  • Dale Earnhardt won his last Winston Cup title, and made NASCAR history with his record 8 championships.
  • 2001 was the last full-time Winston Cup season for Ron Hornaday Jr.; Buckshot Jones, Andy Houston, and Jason Leffler. Hornaday Jr. went to the Grand National Series in 2002 then in the Trucks again in 2005 and still races them today. Jones was fired after a few races that same year due to poor finishes. Houston went back to the Trucks Series and currently serves as the spotter for Austin Dillon. Leffler attempted to have a full-time ride with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005 but was fired halfway into the season. He went back into Grand National from 2006 to 2011 then the Trucks for 2012. After being unemployed in 2013, he died in a sprint car racing accident.
  • 2001 was the last year for teams Eel River Racing and Melling Racing.
  • 2001 was the first year for teams Evernham Motorsports and BAM Racing.
  • Until the 2014 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, the 2001 New Hampshire 300 was the last race to have 42 starters.
  • Last career top 5 points finishes for Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett.
  • Last career top 10 points finish for Sterling Marlin.
  • Rookie Kevin Harvick made 9 starts and got his first top 5 on his 5th start, finishing 2nd in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville.