WATCH: Austin Dillon shares a heartfelt story about his mother bursting into tears after Kevin Harvick’s iconic 2001 Atlanta win

Following Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001, Kevin Harvick replaced him and secured a win for Earnhardt’s team.


WATCH: Austin Dillon shares a heartfelt story about his mother bursting into tears after Kevin Harvick’s iconic 2001 Atlanta win

Austin Dillon (Credits: tsj101sports.com) and Kevin Harvick after 2001 Atlanta Cup race win (Credits: theitem.com)

2001 was an emotional year for NASCAR. The sport lost one of its legends, Hall Of Famer Dale Earnhardt, in a horrible crash during the Daytona 500. A month after the tragic accident, a rookie shocked the world with his iconic win in Atlanta. It was none other than Kevin Harvick. He was set to run his first NASCAR Cup race in Atlanta, but due to Earnhardt’s death, the 25-year-old got behind the wheel of the No.29 car at the second race.

Kevin Harvick replaced Dale Earnhardt in the Richard Childress Racing car. It was his third race driving the No.3 Chevrolet that was rebranded as No.29. Harvick went head-to-head with another NASCAR icon Jeff Gordon and secured a win for Earnhardt’s team. He took the chequered flag first at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2001 and won the race by 0.006 seconds. The rookie impressed the NASCAR world and captured the hearts of many fans, including Austin Dillon and his family. 

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As Kevin Harvick is set to retire from NASCAR, Austin Dillon shared a sweet memory about his family getting emotional over Harvick’s 2001 Atlanta win. He told NBC’s Dustin Long, “My mom screaming at the radio, and she pulled over on the side of the road. And when he crossed the start-finish line they announced on the radio, she started bawling in tears.” 

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Kevin Harvick’s 2001 Atlanta win was a huge moment for NASCAR

Kevin Harvick (Credits: Road & Track)
Kevin Harvick (Credits: Road & Track)

Austin Dillon added, “Just knowing how big it was for our family, as kids you know, we were in the back seat, and when an adult cries you know it’s emotional. And it’s the heart that the family puts into this whole thing. To know the significance of what RCR was at that time and for Kevin to get that win. It was a huge moment for us.”

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Kevin Harvick’s win helped the sport heal from Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death, at least briefly. The 2001 Atlanta Motor Speedway race is unforgettable for many NASCAR fans, including Austin Dillon and his family. It has been two decades, and the memories still stir up emotions. Though Jeff Gordon led the most laps, Harvick had a strong pace, and the win was inevitable. 

Things changed after Dale Earnhardt’s death pushing Harvick to start his Cup debut earlier than planned. Harvick was supposed to run full-time in the Busch Series and part-time in the Cup Series. However, he suddenly had to compete full-time in both series and make his mark in NASCAR. The sport mourned the death of its superstar Earnhardt and welcomed the Cup rookie Kevin Harvick a month later. It was something that changed his life forever. 

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