Dale Earnhardt Jr: Popular Driver Endures Another Tough Loss at Daytona 500

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IFebruary 24, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, looks on in the garage before practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Coming into the 2013 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had recorded a whopping six top-10 finishes at the historic race, including a victory in 2004.

But the 38-year-old's third career second-place finish in the event has to sting.

Earnhardt finished second on Sunday to Jimmie Johnson. Close, yet so far away.

Earhardt's victory in 2004 showed that he had the means to win the event. So have his seven top-10 finishes to date. But being so close to being a multiple-time Daytona 500 winner, yet not ultimately accomplishing the feat, has to burn.

There were more questions than usual heading into "The Great American Race" this year for Earnhardt, despite his resume in the event. 

For one, Earnhardt caused a wreck in a Daytona test in January. At the Sprint Unlimited last week, he finished eighth in a 12-car field, never leading a lap. He came in ninth in the 150-mile qualifying race on Thursday. He started 19th in this year's Daytona, his lowest starting spot in his 14 years in the race.

Still, Earnhardt contended that he had a shot this year. Per the Associated Press (via FoxNews.com), he said: "We've got a good car. Anybody can win, but we've got a good piece. If we get that balance right and get the thing to turning good, we'll have a great shot."

Indeed, Earnhardt certainly had a shot on Sunday. But it was not to be, and Earnhardt was left thinking about what may have been.

The Daytona 500 is a historic race. Winning once is enough for many drivers. But when he's come so close to winning multiple times, you start to question whether there has been something innately missing in Earnhardt since 2004.

Earnhardt had another chance to capture the Daytona 500 on Sunday, but finishing just a hair behind the leader is becoming a trend for one of NASCAR's most popular drivers.

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