Daytona 500: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Shot at History Ends in Crash

Orly Rios Jr.Analyst IIFebruary 20, 2011

Dale Jr.'s Datyona 500 finish included a flat tire and a crash.
Dale Jr.'s Datyona 500 finish included a flat tire and a crash.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Quickly, a show of hands—how many people honestly thought that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to win the Daytona 500 on the 10th anniversary of his father's passing?

Figures, too many to count.

It isn't ironic at all that Dale Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, simply cannot win. It has been 94 races since he last won.

Jr., who had been running consistently with the top pack for most of the Daytona 500, raced his way from the 43rd spot to lead a total of nine laps.

In the last 20 laps, Dale Jr. partnered up with fellow drafting mate, Tony Stewart; they were running in the top six when a caution took the race to a green-white-checkered finish.

Then fate struck again for Dale Jr.

A left low tire sent Jr. to the pits and with a four tire change, Jr. was back on the track, only instead of restarting in fifth with a shot to win the Daytona 500, Jr. restarted at 18th. One lap later, Jr. was involved in a crash that ended his race day.

Dale Jr., who had high hopes for a good season and had the burden of racing on the 10th anniversary of his father's passing, ended the race the way he's done the last 94 times—with disappointment.

NASCAR needs Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win races the way baseball needs the Wild Card. Without either, both sports suffer from some lack of interest. NASCAR suffers when Dale Jr. fails to win, let alone finish a race, and Sunday, Jr. did what he's done the last 94 times in a NASCAR race: failed to win.