On Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the 12th driver in Nascar history to capture multiple Harley J. Earl trophies by winning the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt led 56 laps during the rain-laden event on his way to securing his second win at the Great American Race, 10 years after joining an elite group of race-car drivers by capturing his first Daytona 500 victory.
The race, which took more than six hours to complete because of the weather, was filled with exciting elements, intense wrecks and endless action throughout the contest as Earnhardt eluded too on a conference call with media members Tuesday afternoon.
“I could feel it,” Earnhardt said. “It was electric, man. I don’t know what the hell was going on or why it was like that. I wish I knew because that’s what NASCAR wants to bottle and sell.
“It felt so different than any other race I’d ever been in, any other Daytona 500 I’d been in for sure. The intensity level was at a max.”
Despite the Hendrick Motor Sport driver winning the 56th annual event, Earnhardt knows this particular race doesn’t happen every week, in fact, the pilot of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet has never experienced the elements that were witnessed Sunday.
“I know everybody thinks it’s the greatest race they ever saw because Dale Jr. won it,” Earnhardt said. “Taking that out of the equation, I think it really was an exciting race and one of the most exciting Daytona 500s I’ve ever been in and one of the most intense races I’ve ever been in.”
Earnhardt compared this past Sunday’s event to the 1979 Daytona 500, which was the first time in Nascar history a race was televised in its entirety.
During the 1979 Great American Race, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Alison were involved in the infamous fight. That particular moment, along with Richard Petty capturing his sixth Harley J. Earl trophy, has been credited with giving Nascar its national recognition.
While Earnhardt wasn’t comparing Sunday’s race to the 1979 event, the two-time Daytona 500 champion had a special feeling about winning the event.
” … I think we turned on a lot of people Sunday,” Earnhardt said. “I think that race was destined to do that for some reason. It had kind of that feel, that ‘79 Daytona that was first live flag-to-flag broadcast that really turned the world on to what we were doing through network television.”
Under Nascar’s new rules regarding the chase format, and with his career-defining moment Sunday, Earnhardt has all but guaranteed himself a spot in the 2014 chase field.
Earnhardt finished fifth in the playoff format a year ago, a feat he is determined to improve upon during the 2014 campaign.
“Whether we win the championship or not remains to be seen obviously,” Earnhardt said. “But I had one of my greatest years last year, and I think we can top that this season.”
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or on Twitter @crslone