By Dustin Brewer
After a 55 race winless streak, NASCAR’s far and away most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. found victory lane at the 2014 Daytona 500 to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
38 laps into the 2014 NASCAR season, a familiar issue reared its’ ugly head: the rain began to fall.
After over 6 hours of waiting, the fans that packed the famed Florida racetrack were given what most of them had hoped for when the day started as Dale Jr. stood tall in victory lane.
It was a crazy finish (the only way it could end after the record setting rain delay) that saw Jr. hold off a charging Denny Hamlin to win the NASCAR equivalent of the Super Bowl for the second time, his previous victory coming 10 years ago in 2004.
With three laps left, the announcers noticed a large piece of tape stuck to Jr’s grill and speculated that maybe something as small as that, could be his unfortunate downfall but instead, he was able to seal the deal and pulled away enough to hold on.
Even more revealing was how he celebrated the win; in complete euphoria. He drove all the way down the final stretch of track with his helmet off and window down waving at the patient fans cheering him on and after he got out of his car, he didn’t begin his post race interview until after every crew member had been hugged and thanked and congratulated; a sentiment that extended into his interview.
Entering his last year with crew chief Steve Letarte, who will be leaving to go into broadcasting at season’s end, Jr. had finished second the last three years but was finally able to close it out this year, leading many to say that the pairing of him and Letarte could possibly already be staking their claim to a championship run.
But there’s 35 more races to go before a champion will be crowned, for now let’s take a page out of Jr’s book and just enjoy the win.