Earnhardt Jr. makes his Father proud

By: Kamel Benyahia

It’s been a long time since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a Daytona 500. In fact, it has been quite awhile since he has even taken the checkered flag; June 2012 to be exact.  2004 marked Earnhardt’s last Daytona 500 win, and he has placed second twice since joining the Hendrick racing team.

I am a Tony Stewart fan, but everyone loves Dale Earnardt Jr.   Anyone watching the broadcast could hear the excitement in the announcers’ voices and the entire crowd cheering in the grandstands.  Earnhardt Jr. is unanimously loved in the NASCAR community because he was raised in it.

If you paid close attention to Darrel Waltrip, you could hear him choking up as he called Earnhardt “Junebug,” which is probably Dale’s childhood nickname, when he looked up to drivers like his father and Waltrip.

The Daytona 500 is usually a race that takes place during the day to kick off the NASCAR season.  This year, however, the race was delayed for six hours due to inclement weather in the area.  The race did not restart until 9:30 p.m., with over 100 laps left.

This worked out in FOX’s favor since Sunday evening would probably bring more viewers than a Sunday afternoon.  The potential for new audience members to see Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. duke it out on prime-time television under the bright lights of the Daytona track was too sweet for FOX to pass up.  Besides, who would watch on Monday afternoon if they delayed the race until then?

Denny Hamlin had the dominant car and was close to sweeping the Daytona speed week by winning both duels as well as the Daytona 500.  However, he placed second behind Earnhardt.  Hamlin faced a major setback coming back from the rain delay;  he had no radio communications according to an interview with FOX. Hamlin did not have a spotter for the remaining portion of the race, meaning he was blind to the conditions beyond his field of vision.

Danica Patrick had another solid race until she was taken out in one of the bigger wrecks coming back from the delay.  She hit the wall very hard in a portion of the track that doesn’t have the shock­-absorbing safety barriers installed after Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death.  It is only a matter of time before she takes the checkered flag at one of these high-­speed ovals.  She seems to have a knack for the faster tracks, which may be a skill carried over from her days on the Indy circuit.

Unlike other sports, NASCAR’s biggest event kicks off the season instead of capping it off.  That means now is the perfect time to hop on board for the season and hopefully not watch Jimmie Johnson win a seventh championship.

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