Dale Earnhardt Jr. Drives No. 3 to Emotional Daytona Victory
A relatively small but very enthusiastic crowd witnessed Dale Jr.'s self-professed last ride in his father's famous No. 3 car and watched him drive it all the way to victory lane.
But the victory did not come without a nail-biting, double-file restart at the end of the race that was prompted by a yellow flag with just four laps to go when Paul Menard blew a tire.
With a massive push from Joey Logano, Earnhardt shot out ahead on the final restart and held on through the final two laps to win over Logano. Kevin Harvick was third, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.
"Well, I'll be damned," Dale Jr. said on his radio after taking the checkered flag. "Good job, guys."
To crew chief Tony Eury Jr. he said, "Tony Jr. I appreciate your work, man, I love racing with you."
At about that moment, Eury Jr., who was Dale Jr's longtime crew chief, was overcome with emotion on the pit box. And when the ESPN television camera got to him, Eury could barely speak. "We lost everything here and to come back with that number and do this, that means everything," he said.
In victory lane, Earnhardt said, "I feel lucky, I feel real lucky. I was so worried I wasn't going to win. Because nothing but a win was good enough."
Of his late father, Dale Jr. said, "He would be proud of this, I am sure."
It was the first time Dale Jr. ran with his father's car number since 2002. The deal was brought together by Dale Jr., Teresa Earnhardt and Richard Childress.
Earnhardt Jr. started third in the race and led 33 laps on his way to his first victory of any kind since 2008 and his first win in the Nationwide series, where he infrequently competes, since 2006.
Earnhardt thanked the fans and explained in winner's circle that he didn't do a burnout with his car because he wanted to protect the motor and take it back to the shop and study it to see if they could make it even better.