Daytona 500 2014: Full Results and Why Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is Headed for Big Year

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IFebruary 24, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
Terry Renna/Associated Press

Holding on to his lead after a green-white-checkered finish, Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed his second Daytona 500 win and just his second Sprint Series victory since the start of the 2009 season. 

ESPN helped capture the moment: 

Earnhardt is an 11-time recipient of NASCAR's most popular driver award, and his win was a hit with fans. It was also well deserved after a thrilling and hard-fought race.

Despite a weather delay that lasted far longer than the race, the epic race is the main takeaway. The drivers weren't holding anything back.

Brad Keselowski, who finished third on the day, highlighted that fact in the following quote, tweeted by Fox Sports 1's Kaitlyn Vincie:

Have a look at the full results and then I'll explain why Earnhardt's win points toward a big 2014 and perhaps his first Sprint Series championship. 

Yahoo! Sports' Jay Busbee knows Earnhardt Jr. raced on another level on Sunday and called it a "virtuoso performance."

2014 Daytona 500 Results
1Dale Earnhardt Jr.2009
2Denny Hamlin2004
3Brad Keselowski20033
4Jeff Gordon2006
5Jimmie Johnson20032
6Matt Kenseth2003
7Ricky Stenhouse Jr.20034
8Greg Biffle20025
9Austin Dillon2001
10Casey Mears20028
11Joey Logano20035
12Landon Cassill20018
13Kevin Harvick20038
14Jamie McMurray20022
15Bobby Labonte20026
16Reed Sorenson20039
17Carl Edwards20030
18Marcos Ambrose2007
19Kyle Busch20037
20Terry Labonte20024
21Kurt Busch1998
22Ryan Newman19919
23Alex Bowman19829
24Josh Wise19611
25Brian Scott19612
26AJ Allmendinger19415
27Justin Allgaier19340
28Cole Whitt19323
29Parker Kligerman19341
30Brian Vickers19231
31Kasey Kahne1925
32Paul Menard18410
33Trevor Bayne18314
34David Ragan17643
35Tony Stewart17421
36David Gilliland17117
37Michael AnnettChevrolet161
38Kyle LarsonChevrolet160
39Aric AlmirolaFord146
40Danica PatrickChevrolet145
41Michael WaltripToyota144
42Clint BowyerToyota127
43Martin Truex Jr.Chevrolet30

Earnhardt's lack of on-track success has been well-documented. Everything he does is well-documented. 

Still, over the last three seasons, he has been a much more mature and consistent driver. Last season, he finished fifth in the standings, which was his highest finish since 2003, when he finished third in a strong start to his career. 

Given his past three seasons, we can be confident that Earnhardt will have a solid points outing and will be involved in the Chase should he be able to race a full season. 

But there hasn't been much of a reason to suggest he should be counted on as a serious Chase factor. His recent upward trend has lacked wins. He had just one over the four previous seasons. 

Earnhardt's developing maturity involves patience and a vision of the big picture, but he hasn't been racing with the killer instinct needed to take checkered flags. 

He showed that will to win on Sunday, and he held off a field that was racing harder than it likely will all season. He led the most laps on the day at 54, but there were numerous lead changes and late restarts. Only a determined and aggressive driver was going to win this race. 

This is a great sign for his continued development. 

Of course, there are more factors pointing toward Earnhardt's success this season. 

Let's start with the fact that he is a member of the Hendrick Motorsports team. It is the current dynasty in NASCAR, and after a fairly dominant Daytona 500 from the team, the dynasty looks to be continuing.

Terry Renna/Associated Press

This gives Earnhardt and his teammates an amazing foundation for success, which shouldn't have been doubted heading into Sunday. 

What adds to the promise of Earnhardt's season, though, is the fact that he looked to have the strongest car of his teammates. 

That wasn't the case last year, when Earnhardt had to settle for second as he watched teammate Jimmie Johnson take the Daytona 500. 

Obviously, this doesn't mean Earnhardt will have the strongest car of his teammates week in and week out, but it is a great sign that his team is ready to give him the ride to take the checkered more often than in the past. 

His team, as Sunoco Racing helps highlight, appears to be excited by the possibilities:

It's far too early in the season to confidently pick a driver to take the Sprint Cup title this year, but as long as Earnhardt Jr. is able to race the full season, he will finish in the top three in the Sprint Cup standings. 


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