Dale Earnhardt jr
July 3, 2010 by Post Team
The end of the drought finally arrived at Daytona International Speedway, in the famous No. 3 car in the race that paid tribute to his late father and has raised even the most stoic of NASCAR fans.
Earnhardt ran to his first victory since 2008, on Friday night, driving a tribute to his father’s car in the Nationwide Series race. It was Earnhardt’s first points win since his victory in the Sprint Cup Series Michigan in 2008 and its first national victory since Michigan in 2006.
His celebration was subdued.
“I was just relieved,” he said. “Victory Lane is like when you’re a young child and have a tree house or you and your friends have a club house in the woods. That’s what Victory is mine, and I like to go there. You wear it lose badly, but you know it’s there and can go there again if you try really hard.
“There has been, but it is very difficult to achieve. Each time I win, I absorb like a sponge.”
Earnhardt took the lead in the pits under caution with 26 laps remaining in Friday night’s Nationwide race. Running a No. 3 Chevrolet with a Wrangler paint scheme in honor of his father’s induction into the Hall of Fame, NASCAR, Earnhardt brought his loyal fans to their feet for the final sprint to the checkered flag.
“I was so worried that I was not going to win, because winning was nothing more than good enough,” said Earnhardt. “If we win, what a waste of time. I worked hard to try to win, not just for Dad, I’m proud of it goes into the Hall of Fame, and he would be proud of it, I’m sure.
“So all his fans. There were so many great fans. Not only mine. This is for their fans. Hope you enjoyed this.”
Paul Menard wreck with four laps to put the outcome in jeopardy, and Earnhardt, the leader, decided not to pit under caution. In the old tires, had to contain Joey Logano and a lot of regular football.
Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt’s cousin and crew chief, was overcome with emotion as Earnhardt crossed the finish line.
“We lost everything here,” Eury said softly. “To return with that number and do this, is everything.”
Dale Earnhardt died in a crash on the last lap in the Daytona 500 2001.
Earnhardt Jr. agreed to lead the No. 3, number of his famous father with the Wrangler paint scheme that the elder Earnhardt made famous and went to one of his seven Cup championships. The promotion held last month inaugural Hall of Fame and the ceremony was a collaboration with Richard Childress, who owns the rights to No. 3 and was owner of car Earnhardt, Earnhardt’s widow, Teresa, and JR Motorsports.
“I was so worried that I was not going to win,” Earnhardt said in Victory Lane. “Nothing but a win was good enough. It’s emotional, I’m proud of myself, I’m proud of what I’ve done with this group. It was put together emotionally.”
It was the third time Earnhardt is driving the No. 3 since the death of his father, and he said this week that he’d do – he reiterated from Victory Lane.
“That is all. 3 No more for me,” he said.
Logano, who pushed Earnhardt on the final restart, finished second in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing and considered in the final laps as unpopular beating Earnhardt would have been.
“I probably made a lot of fans tonight, pushing the three to win, but I’d rather be in Victory Lane,” said Logano. “It’s great to see at 3 in Victory Lane at Daytona. It’s really fantastic. Many people thought would never see that again.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was third in a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Brad Keselowski Racing was fourth in a Penske Dodge Challenger renovated, while Kevin Harvick – the driver who replaced Earnhardt after his death – was fifth in a Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc.
Defending race winner Clint Bowyer was sixth, followed by Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman. Brian Ickler and Steve Arpin, drive a JR Motorsports car, rounded out the top 10.
The race was the first of four this season for renewed nationwide series cars – NASCAR’s attempt to give the number of second level of their own identity. Ford brought the Mustang and the Dodge Challenger launched a while kept his Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Impala one. The cars will be fully integrated in 2011.
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