Earnhardt Jr. wins Daytona 500

Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:48am EST
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By Lewis Franck

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended a 55-race winless spell when drove his Chevrolet to victory in a rain-interrupted, crash-marred Daytona 500 on Sunday in the season-opening NASCAR race.

Denny Hamlin was second in a Toyota and Brad Keselowski took third in a Ford, placed ahead of Jeff Gordon and his Chevrolet after a video review by officials following the jam-packed finish at Daytona International Speedway.

Earnhardt used a push from team mate Gordon to win a two-lap shoot-out to the finish line after one of a series of crashes in the race set up the last mad dash as he registered his second Daytona crown after a string of near misses in recent years.

"We got a little help from Jeff to get away," said Earnhardt, who led six times for a race-high 54 laps and took the lead for good on lap 183.

The race actually ended under a yellow caution flag waved just seconds before the leaders reached finish line as another six cars crashed.

It was a marathon day and night at the speedway with the Great American Race completed after a six hour, 21 minute rain delay that came after the 38th lap and was the longest single day interruption in 56 editions of the race.

Earnhardt's triumph came 10 years after the 2004 victory by NASCAR's most popular driver.

"Winning this race is the greatest feeling you can feel in this sport," Earnhardt said after a reverse-lap drive down the frontstretch to show his appreciation for the fans.   Continued...

Feb 23, 2014; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray (1) walks under an umbrella during a rain delay during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports