Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his second Daytona 500 Sunday after the longest rain delay in history impeded the contestants to show off their driving skills. NASCAR’s most popular driver made history last night, although the heavy thunderstorm and tornado hit the Central Florida area approximately 45 minutes after the race began and delayed the event for six hours and 22 minutes. Earnhardt Jr. crossed the line in his No. 88 Chevrolet and won Daytona 500 for the second time, a decade after his first success.
42 lead changes and four multi-car accidents caused the race to turn into a chaos at a certain point, but Earnhardt Jr. succeeded in winning the first place for the second time after the longest rain delay in history caused the competitors to play cards and Crazy Eights for over six hours. After the race resumed, the Daytona 500 winner dominated at the track where his father was killed during the last lap of the 2001 race. This year, Earnhardt’s father’s number three made a comeback for the first time since his demise, but pole-sitter Austin Dillon, who was driving the car with the famous number triggered an accident with seven laps to go.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” Earnhardt Jr. said after winning his second Daytona 500. NASCAR’s most popular driver dominated the final third of the race and won for the first time in 55 races. Dale Earnhardt Jr., a third-generation driver, was followed by Denny Hamlin in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Brad Keselowski in a Team Penske Ford, Jeff Gordon and last year’s winner, Jimmie Johnson. After finishing second three times in the last four Daytona 500s, Earnhardt Jr.’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller asked her husband to tell her how the race went, because she felt she couldn’t watch it anymore.
“I just didn’t want him to be second again, you know?,” Earnhardt Miller said.
Earnhardt Jr.’s sister was not the only one who could not appease her emotions; the winner’s girlfriend, Amy Reimann kept jumping up and down during the final three laps, but she admitted that she was nervous to the point of nausea and told USA Today Sports that, on a scale of 1 to 10, her feelings had reached 20.
After the longest rain delay in Daytona 500 history, Earnhardt Jr. won the trophy the second time and started embracing everyone in sight after his No. 88 Chevrolet reached the sacred ground on the winner’s circle. Confetti and champagne started pouring on the second-time winner, but the 39-year-old competitor was still in shock.
“We just won,” Earnhardt said. “Holy cow, man!”
Reinmann called his victory “the biggest win of his career,” since he has been working hard to win NASCAR’s most important prize again. Earnhardt Jr. told reporters that Daytona 500 is “like the Super Bowl for our sport,” and that winning it for the second time is surreal. However, with a second trophy in hand, the winner already dreams of winning “the next 10 races in a row,” now that he got really good at it and overcame the second place he has been occupying for the last four events. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won second Daytona 500 Sunday night after the longest rain delay in history impeded the contestants to show off their driving skills for six hours and 22 minutes.
By Gabriela Motroc