Stewart-Haas teammates Almirola, Busch distraught at Daytona


"This one's for Dale Earnhardt Sr".

In a closing lap of the February 18 race that had all the drama we would expect, Austin Dillon took the No. 3 vehicle across the finish lane first, 17 years to the day from when Dale Earnhardt could not, losing his life in turn four of the Daytona 500 in a auto bearing the same number.

Earnhardt has worked with Hamlin in the past at Daytona and has high praise for the Toyota driver who owns the third-best average finish over the last eight restrictor-plate races, including the second-most laps led and a 89.3 driver rating. "I knew it would not have been right for Dale Earnhardt not to have won the Daytona 500", Richard added, stressing how important winning this race is to every single racer in NASCAR - past, present and future.

"Man, this place is awesome", said Dillon. "I had to make it happen in the end". 'The Daytona 500 is so rich with history, and Richard Childress Racing taking home the checkered flag - in this race - in the iconic No. 3 vehicle is truly a momentous occasion in the sport of NASCAR. Dillon got his own run after Turn 2 with a push from another iconic auto, Bubba Wallace's No. 43. I knew how special this place was to my dad, so it's more meaningful to me personally maybe than to a lot of the other competitors as the cornerstone of our series and birthplace of speed and all the things, you know, 'The Great American Race'.

McReynolds: I think knowing the history and all the things that had bitten that 3 auto with Dale driving it for the previous 19 Daytona 500s, you knew until you absolutely saw that checkered flag wave that race was not over, that it was not in the books, that it was not a done deal. But I'm willing to take that and go with it.

"He's not driving too aggressively, he's trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was", Almirola said. Almirola spun out. Dillon held off Wallace to lead his only lap of the day - the final one. My grandma ran over and said we won the race, and we had no clue what the significance of that race was but we knew we were going to Victory Lane. To be part of Hendrick Motorsports and for Mr. Hendrick to have this confidence in me, it's just unbelievable. The following year, he was the 2014 Daytona 500 pole victor. I think we finally reached the point that we really felt like the only team that could beat us is if we ended up doing something to beat ourselves.

The car's owner from back in the glory days made no secret that this was an occasion of tribute as much as one of victory.

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Kyle Busch (age 12 in 1998) - "I'd have to say I must have been at home and laying on grandma's floor, sitting on grandma's floor, staring at the television, watching that race".

"There's a lot of fresh faces, and over the last couple or three years, a lot of star power has left: Jeff Gordon, Dale Junior, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards", said Daytona Beach News Journal sports columnist Ken Willis.

Earnhardt Jr. has been a spokesman for Goodyear for three years.

"For all the No. 3 fans that stuck with us and pull for Austin, I'm speechless", said Childress.

Seven-time Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 victor Jimmie Johnson wrecked for the third time in a week when he was caught in a nine-car crash right before the end of the first stage.

"I love this track, I love the history, I wanted to be rooted in this sport and that means I want to be at Daytona when they race here".

The 30-second spot, called "Make a Name", weaves together the legacy of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr., two NASCAR legends, as the younger Earnhardt grows into a driver who strives to honor his father's name. Wallace drives the No. 43 auto for Richard Petty and sobbed in his post-race news conference after his mother came to the front of the room to give him a hug.