Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove his Chevrolet to victory in a rain-interrupted, crash-marred Daytona 500 on Sunday in the season-opening NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway.
Denny Hamlin was second in a Toyota and Brad Keselowski took third in a Ford, placed ahead of Jeff Gordon in his Chevrolet after a video review by officials following the jam-packed finish.
Earnhardt used a push from his team mate Gordon to win a two-lap shoot-out to the finish line after one of a series of crashes in the race.
“We got a little help from Jeff to get away,” said Earnhardt.
It was a marathon day and night at the speedway with the Great American Race completed after a six hour, 21 minute rain delay that came after the 38th lap and was the longest single day interruption in 56 editions of the race.
It was Earnhardt’s second Daytona victory, coming 10 years after the 2004 triumph of NASCAR’s most popular driver.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling you can feel in this sport,” Earnhardt said in an on-track TV interview.
Earnhardt had notched three second-place finishes in the race over the last four years, including the last two.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to feel that again. And it feels just as good, if not better, than the first because of how hard we tried year after year after year,” he said.
The biggest crash of the race happened three-fourths of the way through, involving 13 cars including the one driven by Danica Patrick, who last year became the only woman to win the pole position for the event.
No drivers were seriously injured.