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Daytona 500: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Historical Chance

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 13:  Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives the #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Orly Rios Jr.Analyst IINovember 25, 2016

The Daytona 500 may legally belong to the state of Florida, for NASCAR fans, however, it will always belong to Dale Earnhardt.

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the death of NASCAR's biggest star, Dale Earnhardt, who crashed his famous No. 3 black Chevy Goodwrench on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of Earnhardt's passing, NASCAR will ask fans to throw up three fingers in the air for a moment of silence on the third lap of Sunday's race.

In the meantime, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would like to also honor his father, only in a different way, by winning a race. Dale Jr. hasn't won since Michigan back on June 15, 2008, a race won under caution. Since then, Dale Jr. has gone 93 races without a win.

Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, Dale Jr. has finished ninth, 27th and in last year's race, started 10th overall on a green-white-checkered finished and squeezed his way three-wide to move up eight spots in the final two laps for a second-place finish.

During qualifying last Sunday, Dale Jr. took the pole with a 186.089 qualifying lap, edging teammate Jeff Gordon. His pole position victory lasted two full days as Jr. crashed during a practice session, forcing him into a backup car and forfeiting his pole position victory.

If history has shown us anything, it is that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a knack for winning races that provide added meaning.

Almost five months after his father's fatal car crash on turn four of the Daytona 500, Jr. returned for the annual July 4 weekend race at Daytona, holding off fellow teammate Michael Waltrip to win the Pepsi 400.

In last year's Nationwide Series July 4 weekend race at Daytona, Dale Jr. brought back his father's iconic No. 3 Wrangler blue and yellow design and quickly turned around and honored his father by bringing home the checkered flag.

Sunday's Daytona 500 is not just a kickoff to the 2011 NASCAR season, it's a celebration to the life and career of their most famous driver, Dale Earnhardt, and if fans, and NASCAR for that matter, could have their say so, it would end appropriately with Dale Jr. taking home the checkered flag and ending up in the winner's circle.

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