AP Photo/Terry Renna
AP Photo/Terry Renna
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Daytona 500 for the second time Sunday, ending a 55-race losing streak.
After the 39-year-old North Carolina native crossed the finish line in his No. 88 Chevrolet, he was met with congratulatory messages from fellow drivers and celebrity fans. "The world is right, right now—Dale Jr. just won the Daytona 500," Jeff Gordon said. "That's a sign it's going to be a great season."
Earnhardt, Jr. was understandably overwhelmed with pride. "Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship," the NASCAR star told ESPN. "I didn't know if I'd ever get the chance to feel it again and it feels just as good."
The driver held off Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, 10 years after his first Daytona 500 win. The race was initially stopped after about 45 minutes due to rain, leading to a delay of more than six hours.
After his big victory, Earnhardt, Jr. could barely contain his excitement: "This is amazing. I can't believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn't happen twice, let alone once."
His girlfriend, Amy Reimann, admitted that her nerves were at an all-time high before Earnhardt, Jr. emerged victorious. "On a scale scale of 1-10, I was about a 20," she told USA Today Sports. Calling the big event "the biggest win of [Earnhardt, Jr.'s] career," Reimann said, "He's just come so far that it just means more to him now. He's worked really hard for this and waited a long time for this to happen again. It's just a lot of pressure for him [to win], so this is extremely exciting. He feels like it's not real."
Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
Danica Patrick, meanwhile, celebrated a smaller victory Sunday: She became the first NASCAR driver to amass more than 1 million Twitter followers. "It just shows what incredible and loyal fans I have," she said, per The Detroit News. "It's pretty humbling that 1 million people are curious about what I have to say and what I'm doing. I really can't thank everyone enough for their passion and interest."