It was a long day for NASCAR Sprint Cup series drivers as the Daytona 500 was held up for a rain delay for around six hours due to rain, lightning and the threat of tornadoes. In the end the drivers stuck around as did the fans. Among those fans were members of "Jr. Nation" which are the fans that help make Dale Earnhardt Jr one of the most popular drivers season after season. Sticking around was a good choice because Dale Earnhardt Jr powered his ride to the front during the closing laps, as well as for much of the race, and won his second Daytona 500.
After the win a camera mounted inside his car captured a laughing, smiling, jubilant driver as he made his spun his car around to drive down the front stretch the wrong direction so he could wave at fans that were lining the catch fence. TV and radio contaminators noted that it was the happiest they had seen Dale Jr in several years.
"When I drove down the front straightaway after winning the race it felt like I had everyone there cheering for me," Earnhardt said. "That was key to the moment when you do something like this. Seeing all of that and all the fans you feed off it so much just looking up in the grandstands and to see all those people cheering I will never forget that. It's incredible to feel that from that side of the race track.
It was Earnhardt's second Daytona 500 victory. His first 500 win came in 2004 with DEI racing. And it was also his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win since a victory at Michigan Int'l Speedway on June 17, 2012.
Dale Jr on how he feels after winning the 500: "Man, winning this race is the greatest feeling you can feel in this sport aside from accepting the trophy for the championship," Earnhardt said. "I didn't know if I would ever get to feel that again, but it feels just as good. It's not better than the first because of how hard we tried year after year running second.
Dale Jr on how how his car performed: "This race was car was awesome. We showed all night long how good a car we had in it's these guys right here put it together in the shop. We were fighting off battles after battles. We got a little hookup from Jeff (Gordon) on the last restart and just took care of it from there.
Dale Jr on his second 500 win: "This is amazing. I can't believe this is happening. I'll never take this for granted, man, because it doesn't happen twice, let alone once."
Denny Hamlin on his second place finish:"There is a lot to be disappointed about but a lot to be happy about," said Hamlin, who had no radio communication with his crew over the last 150 laps. "I didn't have the spotter to help guide me so I was winging it trying to spot all six corners by myself. It was a good run but I'm disappointed."
Brad Keselowski on a top five finish:"I actually thought we were going to win," Keselowski said. "I couldn't get any help from behind and that is all she wrote."