Remember Dale Earnhardt's middle-finger salute during the 2001 Daytona 500? Kurt Busch does.

Zach Dean
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

If you ever raced against Dale Earnhardt, you have a story. 

Whether you were a rookie, a veteran, a crew chief or a spotter, being at the track with 'The Intimidator' often led to a moment. Some were good. Some were bad. 

And, in Kurt Busch's case, some involved the middle finger. 

"Oh yeah, he sure did," Busch said with a laugh. "I was a rookie and didn't really know what I was doing."

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Just before halfway of the 2001 Daytona 500, Busch found himself battling Earnhardt for fifth-place. Busch, now in his 22nd season, was a rookie running in his first Daytona 500. Earnhardt, meanwhile, needed no introduction.

Kurt Busch was introduced to Dale Earnhardt's angry side during the 2001 Daytona 500.

"I was certainly out of my league running up front," Busch remembered. "I thought I was minding my own business in the middle lane, and then all of a sudden, this black No. 3 is side-swiping me on my right side."

The two made contact coming out of Turn 4, and nearly wrecked. 

"Earnhardt stuck his hand out the window!" FOX analyst Larry McReynolds, Earnhardt's former crew chief, said at the time. 

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"Boy, that's the lamb and the lion going at it right there," added play-by-play man Mike Joy. 

Busch allowed Earnhardt to eventually pass him down the frontstretch, but the damage was done. 

Everybody has a Dale Earnhardt story. Some good. Some bad. And then there's Kurt Busch.

"As he goes by I see him stick his finger out the window," Busch laughed. "I was like, wait a minute, what did I do? But that's what it is to be a rookie."

Busch would finish 41st in his first 500, while Earnhardt wrecked and died on the final lap. Nearly 20 years later, Joy said he still thinks about that race, that moment, and the different side of Earnhardt he saw that day. 

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"I remember saying at the time, 'Well Kurt, you're No. 1,'" Joy said. "If Earnhardt was really upset, though, he’d be Days of Thunder with a death grip on the wheel, but he was having fun with it that day. We all were."