DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Well at least it wasn’t snowing! After the longest rain delay in Daytona 500 history, Dale Earnhardt Jr won his second season opener ever. Dale led 6 times for 54 laps, but dominated the end of the race, when it counts most. “Winning this race is the greatest feeling you can feel in the sport, aside from … accepting the trophy for the championship,” Earnhardt Jr. said in the winner’s circle. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to feel that again and it feels just as good if not better than the first because of how hard we tried year after year, running second all those years and wondering why and what we needed to do. “We got a little help from Jeff (Gordon) to get away on that restart and tried to take care of if from there. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I’ll never take it for granted because this just doesn’t happen twice.” The intimidator must have a smile on his face.
Denny Hamlin had an impressive week winning the Sprint Unlimited last week and one of the Duel races and taking second place in the 500 with his Gibbs Racing Toyota. Hamlin’s team suffered radio issues during the race forcing Denny to act as his own spotter. “I’m so 50/50 on whether I’m pissed off or I’m happy,” Hamlin said after his career-best finish in the 500. “I just don’t know. Any other year I probably would have been like jumping up and down. We can hardly finish these races, much less have a shot at a victory.” Hamlin continued, “I felt like our car wasn’t as strong as the week progressed. The competition definitely caught up for sure. Then … me not being able to drive to my ability because I was being conservative, trying to spot for myself, that’s not a way to race.”
Brad Keslowski finished 3rd with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top five finishers. With Gordon and Johnson, it makes three Hendricks cars in the top five. Looks like Hendricks will be the team to watch in 2014. “The world is right, right now,” said Gordon, a teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. “Dale Jr. just won the Daytona 500 to kick off 2014. That is a sign that the NASCAR season is going to be a good one.”
Danica Patrick just catch a break. After being thrown under the bus earlier in the week by Richard Petty, she was taken out of the race on lap 145 when Kevin Harvick drifted up on Brian Scott triggering a 12-car crash taking out Patrick, Menard, Dillon, Waltrip, Gilliland and more (Check out this great Fox Sports video - CUP: Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon in Huge Wreck - 2014 Daytona 500). "Man, what the hell happened?" Patrick asked her crew after hitting the front stretch wall head on. She was not injured. Can’t imagine that this was her fault!