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Dale Earnhardt Jr. earns his second Daytona 500 victory

'The Bachelor' Juan Pablo Galavis (left), NASCAR driver Ty Dillon (center) and television personality Rob Marciano (right) pose during pace car rides prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500.
'The Bachelor' Juan Pablo Galavis (left), NASCAR driver Ty Dillon (center) and television personality Rob Marciano (right) pose during pace car rides prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500.
Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the biggest race of the season the Daytona 500, ending a 55 race winless streak going back to Michigan International Speedway in June of 2012. With the new championship format, Earnhardt Jr. is an instant championship contender in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as well as a guaranteed spot in the All-Star Race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

This was Earnhardt Jr.’s second Daytona 500 victory, his first coming in 2004, and his 20th Sprint Cup series win. Earnhardt Jr. led for 6 separate occasions for 54 laps out of the 200 laps driven, and Earnhardt Jr. led the most laps of the race.

“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you can feel in this sport, aside from obviously accepting the trophy for the championship,” said Earnhardt Jr. in victory lane. “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 running second all them years, wondering why and what we needed to do.”

“This race car was awesome, we showed them there all night long, how good of a car we had,” Earnhardt Jr. continued. “It’s because these guys right here put it together in the shop. We could fight off battles after battles and we got a little help from Jeff (Gordon) on the restart.”

Earnhardt Jr. led the final 17 laps, pulling away on the final restart for the Green-White-Checkered and hanging on to the lead as the race ended under caution as the #88 National Guard Chevrolet raced towards to start-finish line the cars behind him were wrecking behind him exiting Turn #4, the final accident included the #36 Golden Corral Chevrolet driven by Reed Sorenson, #99 Fastenal Ford driven by Carl Edwards, #47 Kroger/USO driven by A.J. Allmendinger, #18 M&M’s Toyota driven by Kyle Busch, who backed down pit road to finish , #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet driven by Jamie McMurray, and the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet driven by Kevin Harvick.

The 56th Annual Great American Race ended nearly 11 hours after it began under caution, after a 6 hour, 21 minutes and 40 second rain delay that brought heavy rain showers and a tornado warning for the area, many fans actually assumed that the broadcast of the 2013 Daytona 500 which aired was the real deal. Jimmie Johnson had won the 2013 race and both media outlets and fans alike thought the broadcast was a live feed as the replay ended about 5:45 p.m. eastern time both social media and text messages turned into congratulatory messages for Hendrick Motorsports and Johnson.

Johnson, who has 2 Daytona 500 victories and 6 championships added to Twitter saying; ‘I hear I won the #Daytona500? Haha! I also have friends confused and texting congratulations to me #2013Replay.

During an interview with Fox during the rain delay, Clint Bowyer had said, “The coolest thing about this weather is we were able to run 2 Daytona 500’s in one day. Jimmie won the first one apparently. I’m going to win the next one.”

Bowyer’s day would not end the way he predicted as his engine expired on lap 127, ending his chances for the victory. Bowyer was listed in 42nd when the unofficial race results came out.

Denny Hamlin finished second, with Jeff Gordon in third, Brad Keselowski in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson in fifth.

The next Sprint Cup Series Race is The Profit on CNBC 500, presented by Small Business Fueling America at the Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, March 2, 2013 with television coverage beginning at 3 p.m. eastern standard time on Fox.

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