(DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — It was a long day in Daytona, but when it was all said and done, NASCAR’s most popular driver stood alone: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 on Sunday for the second time in his storied career.
The victory came a decade after his first win and snapped a 55-race losing streak dating back to 2012.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said Earnhardt. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance to feel it again and it feels just as good.”
Rain began to fall just 45 minutes into the race, which went on to be delayed for 6 hours, 22 minutes before Earnhardt Jr. finally earned his shot at redemption; he’d finished second in three of the previous four 500s.
“The world is right right now — Dale Junior just won the Daytona 500,” Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon said after finishing fourth. “That’s a sign it’s going to be a great season.”
Denny Hamlin finished second, with Brad Keselowski, Gordon, and last year’s winner Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top five.
Earhnardt led six times for a race-high 54 laps — all after the rain delay, but things got a bit chaotic near the end: There were 42 lead changes and four multi-car accidents before he edged out Hamlin for the checkered flag.
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