Often compared to the Super Bowl in terms of its importance for NASCAR drivers and fans, the Daytona 500 is always a huge race that can shape the rest of the season.
After an over-six-hour rain delay, several multi-car pileups and a win by the most popular driver in the sport, the 56th running of the Great American Race was certainly an unforgettable one.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. became just the 11th driver in NASCAR history to win the race multiple times with his second win after finishing in second place in three of the previous four seasons.
Gordon: "The world is right right now, Dale Jr. just won the Daytona 500. That's a sign it's going to be a great season." #NASCAR— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) February 24, 2014
While the win doesn't exactly mark the end to the stranglehold that Jimmie Johnson has had over the sport for the past few seasons, with six championships in the last eight years, it does put Junior virtually into the Sprint Cup Chase at the end of the season.
With the checkered flag already flying on the wild race, here's a look at the full results from the race, along with a few highlights of the 2014 Daytona 500.
|2014 Daytona 500 Results|
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|43||Martin Truex Jr.|
Highlights from the Daytona 500
The win was a huge one for Junior, but it wasn't the only pivotal moment of the Daytona 500.
Following a long wait and lead-up to the huge event, it got off to an exciting start as Austin Dillon, the pole-sitting rookie who brought the famous No. 3 car back to the track, led the first lap. Dillon would fall off the pace after that point, but he still pulled out a ninth-place finish.
But that final placement wasn't without controversy. Dillon was the cause of two separate wrecks—including a huge pileup on the final lap—and didn't exactly come away with the best reputation, as Chelsa Messinger of WLTZ in Columbus, Ga. notes:
Austin Dillon is the Lane Kiffin of the Daytona 500. Wreaking havoc everywhere he goes.— Chelsa Messinger (@ChelsaMessinger) February 24, 2014
Dillon came away with a good finish, but he will have some making up to do during his first full season in the Sprint Cup level of NASCAR.
After the race started, it lasted just 39 laps before rain started to fall and the cars were covered during a delay. As the rain kept falling and the Air Titans worked to clear the track, the rain delay ultimately lasted over six hours.
During that time off the track, Fox decided to show last year's Daytona 500. That caused a bit of confusion for fans, media outlets and even some of Johnson's friends, as he joked about on Twitter:
When the cars finally got back on the track, madness ensued. Several huge wrecks occurred, but the 12-car crash that took place on Lap 146 grabbed most of the attention.
The wreck claimed the cars of Danica Patrick and Paul Menard, and it nearly took Dillon out of the race. But Patrick's exit from the race was certainly the one that captured the headlines, as she finished 40th and hit the wall especially hard during the crash.
Following the rain, restart and wrecks, a famous face was the one who stood in Victory Lane under the lights in NASCAR's biggest race.
Junior's win was an exciting one for fans of NASCAR, but it was also a big enough one for him to do something he's never done before—create a Twitter account. His first tweet was a memorable one:
Much like his popularity in the sport, Earnhardt Jr.'s popularity immediately skyrocketed overnight with more than 300,000 followers by Monday morning.
After taking the lead late in the race and conserving gas through two caution laps along with holding off stiff competition from both Denny Hamlin and Hendrick teammates Gordon and Johnson, Junior was a worthy champion on Sunday night.
With the win, Earnhardt Jr. sets up what could be a huge season for the 39-year-old driver. Heading into Phoenix and the rest of the season, he already has the win he needs to make the Chase and just needs to put together consistent races to make the NASCAR playoffs.
Following the win, Junior didn't hold back about expectations for the 2014 season, per Nate Ryan of USA Today:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "We're going for the jugular this year." #nascar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) February 24, 2014
After posting five runner-up finishes during the 2013 season and finishing fifth in the points standings overall, Earnhardt Jr. is primed for another great season. Only this time, he wants to finish like he did in Daytona—on top of the leaderboard.
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