DALE EARNHARDT JR. WINS 56th ANNUAL DAYTONA 500
Dale Earnhardt Jr. held off Denny Hamlin to capture his second career DAYTONA 500 victory on Sunday evening, nearly assuring himself of a Chase berth at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14. Under the new Chase format, any driver with a win qualifies for the Chase provided they are in the top 30 in points. Points will also be used to add or remove drivers if there were more or less than 16 winners this season.
It was a landmark night for Earnhardt Jr., who snapped a 55-race winless streak dating back to 2012. The Hendrick Motorsports driver finished second in three of the previous four runnings of the Great American Race, but got over the hump at Daytona International Speedway for the first time since 2008. In one of the most exciting DAYTONA 500 events ever, the race produced a Daytona-record 177 green flag passes for the lead, the most since NASCAR started keeping track in 2005. In total, the race featured 11,977 green flag passes, which shattered the old Daytona record of 9,574.
"This racecar was awesome," said Earnhardt, who led a race-high 54 laps. "We showed 'em all night long how good a car we had, and it's because these guys who put it together in the shop. That (car) would do anything – we fought off battle after battle and we got a little help at the end from Jeff (Gordon) to get away on that restart and we tried to take care of it from there."
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend at Chicagoland Speedway takes place Sept. 12-14, and begins with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series under the lights on Friday night. On Saturday, Sept. 13, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will hit the track as the precursor to the Sept. 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series showdown. Sunday’s race is the first in the Challenger Round, where 16 Chase drivers will begin their quest for a championship.
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