August 3rd, 2015
Emotions ran high at the end of the 56th Annual Daytona 500 as Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored his first victory in the race since 2004. It had been a long ten years since he last won in 2004. The years were filled with plenty of close finishes, but Earnhardt Jr. could never close the deal. That all changed Sunday Night as Earnhardt Jr. held off a storming pack in route to victory lane.
A very long day began early Sunday afternoon and finished in the late hours of the day. Drivers who finished the race had waited out the rain, survived crashes, and fought like heck for a shot at the victory. They all poured their heart and soul into the biggest race of the year, which gave us all a reminder on just how big this race actually is.
A long rain delay took up much of the afternoon as drivers, teams, and fans waited six hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds from the first rain drops to see the cars finish the event. The wait was well worth it as once the lights went on, action immediately picked up.
It wasn’t until after the halfway point that Dale Earnhardt Jr. first led the race. After a round of pit stops concluded around Lap 130, it was Earnhardt Jr. out front. Not too long after he took the lead was when the first of four major wrecks of the day unfolded.
With 55 laps remaining, calamity struck as Kevin Harvick got into Brian Scott coming off of turn 4. Scott drifted up into Aric Almirola, sending Almirola spinning across the track. Almirola tagged Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick as he came down the track, creating chaos all around.
Other drivers involved included David Gilliland, Michael Waltrip, Paul Menard, Justin Allgaier, Parker Kligerman, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Josh Wise and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Most drivers involved only suffered slight damage, but Waltrip and Gilliland were among the drivers who had to go to the garage.
The next multi-car incident occurred with 38 laps remaining. Austin Dillon got into Kyle Larson in turn 3, sending Larson’s car around in the middle of the pack. Others piled-in as cars scrambled all around. The wreck also included Marcos Ambrose, Michael Annett, Brian Vickers, Terry Labonte, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, Brian Scott, and Jamie McMurray. Once again, a majority of the drivers involved suffered little damage and continued racing.
Earnhardt Jr. led the field on the ensuing restart. He and Greg Biffle had quite the battle for the lead going as they stayed side-by-side for many laps. Biffle’s teammate Carl Edwards was the next to battle Earnhardt Jr. out front, but Earnhardt Jr. figured out a way to maintain the lead.
The sixth caution of the race was for a third multi-car incident. Again, Austin Dillon was the trigger as he gave teammate Ryan Newman a bump going into turn 3. That sent Newman into the wall and eventually around. Others including Parker Kligerman, Cole Whitt, Brian Scott, Justin Allgaier, and Terry Labonte suffered damage.
A green-white-checker finish followed as a very long Daytona 500 was set to conclude. Earnhardt Jr. led the inside lane to green as he had to battle Brad Keselowski on the outside. Keselowski couldn’t keep up too well as the outside somewhat faded and Earnhardt Jr. was able to stay in control of the charge at the front.
Earnhardt Jr. played an incredible amount of defense on the final laps as he had to keep back a hard charging Denny Hamlin and Keselowski. As the fourth and final accident of the day took place behind the leaders off of turn 4, it was Earnhardt Jr. holding off Hamlin to the line.
The victory was Earnhardt Jr.’s first since the June 2012 race at Michigan. The win also marked Earnhardt Jr.’s second Daytona 500 victory and first in ten years.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance to feel that (Daytona 500 victory) again” Earnhardt Jr. said in victory lane. He then elaborated about trying so hard over the past few years and finally getting the elusive victory.
The free-for-all feeling this Daytona 500 had to it wasn’t just for fun as it marked the beginning of the new season. The season of winning it could be called as wins are a driver’s ticket to the Chase. Dale Earnhardt Jr. likely punched his ticket into the postseason with this victory.
|1||9||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr||National Guard||Chevrolet||200||$1,506,363||Running||54||48|
|2||4||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Express||Toyota||200||$1,148,451||Running||16||43|
|3||33||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite||Ford||200||$847,721||Running||13||42|
|4||6||24||Jeff Gordon||Drive To End Hunger/AARP||Chevrolet||200||$731,399||Running||0||40|
|6||3||20||Matt Kenseth||Dollar General||Toyota||200||$518,362||Running||0||38|
|7||34||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Nationwide Insurance||Ford||200||$434,588||Running||0||37|
|12||18||40||Landon Cassill||Hillman Racing||Chevrolet||200||$306,850||Running||0||0|
|15||26||52||Bobby Labonte||Florida Lottery||Chevrolet||200||$325,213||Running||0||29|
|16||39||36||Reed Sorenson||Golden Corral||Chevrolet||200||$342,446||Running||0||28|
|20||24||32||Terry Labonte||C&J Energy Services||Ford||200||$339,996||Running||0||24|
|21||8||41||Kurt Busch||Haas Automation||Chevrolet||199||$356,601||Running||15||24|
|23||29||23||Alex Bowman||Borla Exhaust||Toyota||198||$359,109||Running||0||21|
|24||11||98||Josh Wise||Jet Star Aviation/Curb Records||Ford||196||$322,888||Running||0||20|
|25||12||33||Brian Scott||White Tail||Chevrolet||196||$361,223||Running||0||0|
|27||40||51||Justin Allgaier||BRANDT Professional Agriculture||Chevrolet||193||$327,513||Accident||4||18|
|28||23||26||Cole Whitt||Speed Stick GEAR||Toyota||193||$315,663||Accident||0||16|
|30||31||55||Brian Vickers||Aaron’s Dream Machine||Toyota||192||$350,388||Running||0||14|
|31||5||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance||Chevrolet||192||$350,413||Running||2||14|
|33||14||21||Trevor Bayne||Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center||Ford||183||$316,438||Accident||2||0|
|34||43||34||David Ragan||CSX – Play It Safe||Ford||176||$323,738||Running||0||10|
|35||21||14||Tony Stewart||Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1||Chevrolet||174||$349,521||Running||0||9|
|36||17||38||David Gilliland||Love’s Travel Stops||Ford||171||$322,968||Running||0||8|
|37||36||7||Michael Annett||Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers||Chevrolet||161||$313,605||Accident||0||7|
|39||13||43||Aric Almirola||Smithfield Foods||Ford||146||$317,939||Accident||5||6|
|42||20||15||Clint Bowyer||5-Hour Energy||Toyota||127||$302,344||Engine||0||2|
|43||2||78||Martin Truex Jr||Furniture Row||Chevrolet||30||$292,311||Engine||0||1|