With his decisive victory at the 2014 Daytona 500 – his second win in the biggest stock car race of the season, with his first victory a decade ago – Dale Earnhardt, Jr., adds one more chapter to the legacy that he and his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, began building when Dale Jr.’s grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, first raced at Daytona in 1961, just two years after the Daytona International Speedway was built.
And every Earnhardt victory at the Daytona 500 has been in a Chevrolet – like Dale Jr.’s National Guard-sponsored No. 88 Chevrolet SS. In fact, the race’s fastest qualifier was the No. 3 Chevrolet SS driven by rookie Austin Dillon, grandson of car owner Richard Childress, who also owned the No. 3 Chevrolet that Dale Earnhardt drove to seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ championships. For 2014, it was, in fact, an all-Chevrolet front row, with Martin Truex, Jr., and his No. 78 Chevrolet SS starting alongside Dillon. And don’t forget that the official Pace Car for the Daytona 500 was the 2014 Chevrolet SS, so it seemed there was always a Chevrolet out front.
And that was true Saturday, too, at the NASCAR Nationwide™ Series DRIVE4COPD 300, when rookie Dylan Kwasniewski put his No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro on the pole. The race was won by another Chevrolet Camaro, the No. 7 driven by Regan Smith and owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and his sister Kelley Earnhardt-Miller. We’d also remind you that a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro was the Pace Car, but that may be piling on.
It was that kind of weekend for Chevrolet, and for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 11 times voted the most popular driver in NASCAR®. When Earnhardt took his No. 88 to the point, the crowd would cheer, and when he won – driving a near-perfect race in his Rick Hendrick-owned SS after starting in ninth place – the crowd, not the least bit dismayed by a rain delay that lasted more than six hours, absolutely erupted, and hundreds of fans ran to the fences to see Dale Jr. up close.
You’d think by now this might be getting a little old hat, with a Chevrolet driver winning seven of the last 11 runnings of the Daytona 500. Or that a Chevrolet has been on the Daytona 500 pole 21 times. Or that Team Chevy drivers have won 44 of the 134 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ points races at Daytona International Speedway. Or that a Chevrolet has led more than 35 percent of all the laps at Daytona.
You’d think we might be getting used to that, but you’d be wrong.
In fact, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. summed it up best, speaking to his team over the radio as the checkered flag fell at the 52nd annual Daytona 500:
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
And we couldn’t be prouder of the members of Team Chevy who made it happen – a team that, Monday morning, will pick the victory confetti out of their hair and begin working on winning the next 35 races in this 10-month season.