New York Jeff Gordon and the still-vibrant memory of Dale Earnhardt Sr. dominated Friday night's NASCAR Awards.
While Gordon was honored for his fourth Winston Cup championship and raked in a record payoff of $10,879,757, the sport gathered for a black tie gala that also was a tribute to Earnhardt, who died in a crash in the Daytona 500.
The Earnhardt family was represented by Teresa, the widow of the seven-time champion, and son Dale Jr., who finished sixth in the season standings. Teresa Earnhardt has made few public appearances since her husband's death but wanted to come to New York to accept a posthumous award honoring him as NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 2001.
The Intimidator drew 56.6 percent of the nearly 400,000 votes. Gordon was second with 14 percent, followed by Dale Jr.
"It's a huge honor for my dad and it's something he would have loved to have been here to accept," Dale Jr. said.
Gordon, the only driver other than seven-time winners Earnhardt and Richard Petty to have won more than three championships, was dominant on the track in 2001. He won six poles and six races and finished in the top five in 18 races. His total career earnings soared over $51 million, leaving behind former record-holder Earnhardt.
"I admired and respected Dale Earnhardt and I'm glad to share this night with him," Gordon said.