Dale Earnhardt Jr. reigns in Daytona 500|
Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500
for the second time after waiting out a more than six-hour rain delay,
surviving three big crashes late in the race and then holding off Denny Hamlin
on the final lap.
Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, passed Carl Edwards and took the
lead for good just before a caution for an accident involving former Daytona
500 winner Trevor Bayne with 17 laps to go.
A multi-car crash in the closing laps set up a two-lap sprint to the finish.
Earnhardt pulled ahead of the field after the final restart and then beat
Hamlin to the finish line by 0.092 seconds. Hamlin had won the preseason event
at Daytona International Speedway last weekend and the Daytona 500 qualifying
race this past Thursday.
Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 for the first time in 2004. He also ended a
55-race winless streak in the Sprint Cup Series. His last victory came in June
2012 at Michigan.
"I can't believe this," Earnhardt Jr. said over his team radio after taking
the checkered flag. "This is better than the first one."
Earnhardt Jr. had finished second in the last two Daytona 500s, including a
runner-up to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson one year ago.
Jeff Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 winner and Earnhardt Jr.'s, teammate at
Hendrick, finished third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Johnson, who had to
start from the rear of the field in a backup car. Johnson, the six-time and
defending Sprint Cup champion, wrecked his primary car during the final lap of
the qualifying race. He also crashed in the preseason event.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth, Austin Dillon, the pole sitter, Greg Biffle
and Casey Mears finished sixth through 10th, respectively.
02/23 23:47:29 ET