Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his second career Daytona 500 on Sunday, fending off an excellent field of NASCAR competitors and enduring a lengthy rain delay in his triumphant return of victory lane.
The famous stock car driver's girlfriend, Amy Reimann, was understandably concerned as she witnessed the prestigious race unfold. As reported on Monday by USA Today's Jeff Gluck, Reimann may have felt more nerves and pressure than her boyfriend did in The Great American Race, and indicated she was proud of him for overcoming the accompanying adversity:
On a (nervous) scale of 1-10, I was about a 20...He's just come so far that it just means more to him now. He's worked really hard for this and waited a long time for this to happen again. It's just a lot of pressure for him (to win), so this is extremely exciting. He feels like it's not real.
Earnhardt broke new ground in winning his two Daytona 500 races nine years apart—the longest span ever between victories, according to ESPN's John Bucigross:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his second career Daytona 500, also won in 2004. His 9 race streak between wins is longest in Daytona 500 history.— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) February 24, 2014
This win was also the first for Earnhardt in 55 starts, per ESPN Stats & Info—and it came in a race where he was runner-up in three of the past four years:
Dale Earnhardt Jr still leading with 15 laps to go. He's finished 2nd in 3 of last 4 years. Will he win tonight?— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 24, 2014
With his win at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. snaps a 55-race winless streak. Its his 1st win since June 2012 at Michigan.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 24, 2014
Those finishes started to overshadow his 2004 win—something Earnhardt was determined not to be remembered for:
#DaleJr: "Winning is all that matters when it comes to Daytona; they probably won't remember you much for finishing second a lot."— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) February 24, 2014
The 39-year-old veteran also decided to join Twitter following his landmark win, and although the account was verified on Monday, confirming that it's just as real as his Daytona 500 victory that Reimann had trouble comprehending.
Reimann alluded to the weight of the expectations Earnhardt carries and how hard he works at being the best driver he can be. That's always an important theme when discussing Earnhardt, whose late father, Dale Sr., was a sensational racer and made his mark as a NASCAR legend.
It was in the 2001 Daytona 500 when Earnhardt's beloved father passed away following a last-lap crash, making the tie between Earnhardt and the race even more significant.
Earnhardt paid a visit to the statue of his father at the storied track:
Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. be a legitimate drivers' champion contender in 2014?
As for what this victory means moving forward, it has to give Earnhardt a lot of confidence. With his competitive nature and a lack of recent success, he could have rested on his laurels and previously established legacy, but he doesn't appear to have designs to do that anytime soon. Sunday was proof of that.
Now that he's snapped an extended checkered flag drought, Earnhardt can race with more freedom. Winning the Daytona 500 makes just about any year a massive success, so the pressure Reimann discussed won't be as prominent now that Earnhardt has confirmed his place in history with multiple triumphs at Daytona International Speedway.