The sticker stayed and Dale Earnhardt Jr drove it victory lane in one of the biggest moments in NASCAR history
In February 2001, the world lost Dale Earnhardt following an incident in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series event. The crash took place at Daytona International Speedway in the final lap of the Daytona 500 and it sent the entire industry into mourning.
DEI driver Michael Waltrip went to victory lane in Daytona Beach, Florida that day. However, due to the situation, Waltrip wasn’t really able to celebrate his win.
In the weeks that followed, Dale Earnhardt Jr wasn’t himself. In the following race, he finished last, 43rd. That was followed by several runnings of 30th or worse.
10 weeks after the crash, Dale Jr finished 3rd at California Speedway. That was soon followed by another 3rd at Dover Speedway. He was rebounding and the fans rallied behind him.
2001 Pepsi 400
A storm was brewing. In the 2001 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, Brittney Spears gave the command as NASCAR returns to Daytona for the first time since losing Dale Sr.
In a hurry, Dale Earnhardt Jr was back at the front of the field. He grabbed the lead multiple times during the event as the crowd went crazy each and every time.
With 6 laps to go, Johnny Benson was the leader as Earnhardt rode in 6th. On the rear bumper of Earnhardt Jr sat his teammate, Michael Waltrip. With 5 to go, Waltrip pushed Earnhardt Jr to the lead.
Waltrip never left the bumper of Earnhardt, pushing him to victory lane. Waltrip then drove his car to the front stretch and parked it in the grass, next to Dale Jr as they celebrated together. Note that Waltrip was unable to celebrate his win months prior at the same track.
After the burnouts, Waltrip climbed to the roof of his car with both hands in the air. Dale Earnhardt Hr joined him on the roof of the No. 15 in the celebration, creating one of the most recognizable images in history as two cars and crews celebrated the win, as Dale Earnhardt Inc teammates.
“Some of the moves he made on the track today, looked like his father,” NASCAR announcer Allan Beswick stated after the checkered flag.
It was one of the best moments in NASCAR history. Nearly 20 years later, there’s now a new story that’s surfaced from behind the scenes.
Dale Earnhardt Jr: Skull and crossbones sticker
On the interior dashboard of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s No. 8 machine was a skull and crossbones sticker. If you’re unaware, that symbol is associated with death. It’s also similar to the warning symbol for poisonous substances and nothing good.
Dale Jr installed the sticker himself. It made one and only one appearance inside his machine.
At the time, Dale Earnhardt Jr ran the Budweiser paint scheme. The sticker was a conflict, given Bud was a beverage company. Had the multi-million dollar sponsor had it’s choice, the sticker would have been removed, during the race.
“Just a sticker I thought was cool. So I snuck it into the car and stuck it on the dash that night. Bud was pissed off because of the connection of that symbol with poison,” Dale Earnhardt Jr explained via Reddit.
Dale Jr added, “They actually asked our team if I could remove it during the race. I didn’t get that information till years later.”
Dale Jr won two more races in the 2001 season. He finished 8th in the standings.