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Junior Takes 2nd in Daytona 500

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 2/24/2013
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Race: Daytona 500
Track Specs: 2.5-mile superspeedway / 200 Laps
Weather: Overcast; 80 deg.
Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 2nd

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s valiant charge on the final lap of the Daytona 500 came up one spot short, beating everyone to the stripe but teammate Jimmie Johnson in the 55th running of the Great American Race. It was Earnhardt Jr.’s second consecutive runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 and third in the last four years. In 14 Daytona 500s, Earnhardt Jr. has finished third or better six times, including his win in 2004.

Earnhardt’s bid to become a repeat winner came to fruition on the last of 200 circuits around Daytona International Speedway. In fourth place behind Johnson, Greg Biffle and Danica Patrick, Earnhardt strategically lagged his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet through turns 1 and 2 and – with the help of Mark Martin in fifth – catapulted down the backstretch to slingshot passed Patrick and Biffle. With only Johnson between him and the checkered flag, Earnhardt waged one last attack but couldn’t muster the momentum he had on the backstretch to overtake the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

Johnson, whose No. 48 Lowe’s team shares a shop at Hendrick Motorsports with Earnhardt’s No. 88 crew, claimed his second Daytona 500 title and Rick Hendrick’s seventh.

Earnhardt Jr. started the afternoon in 19th and spent much of the first half of the race running mid-pack. His single biggest jump in positions came following a green-flag stop on lap 174 and the race’s fifth caution on lap 177, in which he took the restart in 12th and picked off five positions in a single lap. He would never drop out of the top 10 again.

The race’s sixth and final caution for debris on lap 191 set up a sprint to the finish. Earnhardt took the lap 194-restart in eighth place and made the most of the outside line, getting passed Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano – all lined up on the inside for the restart.

Earnhardt patiently waited until the white-flag lap to make his move. It nearly was thwarted by a wreck behind him, but NASCAR let the final lap play out without throwing the yellow flag. Martin, Keselowski, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five behind Earnhardt Jr.

DALE JR. QUOTES
On his last-lap move to win the race:
“Well, we just had a lot of help from Mark Martin at the end. We were able to lay back until the last lap on the backstretch there to get enough of a run. We got by a couple of them, but I looked up in the mirror off of (turn) four and Mark (Martin) was back there racing those guys and I lost my help. So when we got to Jimmie (Johnson) we didn’t have enough steam. I want to thank Hendrick and all the guys that work there. The engine was great. The car was real fast. You had to be real patient and if you tried to pull out you would go to the back of the field. We had to really be patient on them green runs to try to hold our track position and try to do things on pit road to get us up front. But at the end I knew the racing was going to get mixed up and it sure did. It was a lot of fun, just a great package, a couple of adjustments and man this is going to be awesome.”

On having Mark Martin pushing him at the end:
“Yeah, me and Mark (Martin) were just kind of sitting there and I was hoping he was thinking what I was thinking. So I was going to wait and back-up pretty hard to him and then get a run off of (Turn) 2 and then see what we could do in those last three-quarters of a lap. I just kind of ran out of steam off of (Turn) 4 and Mark didn’t get back to us. It just didn’t work out just perfectly. But we made a good move; just not enough race track. It’s real hard to pass the leader. Jimmie (Johnson) did a lot of good things there early or late in the race to stay up front. I was real happy with the HMS engines and all the guys in the shop did a good job all off-season working really hard trying to get these cars ready. It was a great finish for us and we’re going to be strong this year. I’m really excited about getting the season kicked-off with such a good finish.”

Daytona Race Report
Start 19th
Finish 2nd
Laps Completed (Led) 200 of 200 (0)
Standings (from leader) 2nd (-5)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Oral-B USA 500
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 872 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 851 -21
3 +2 Matt Kenseth 794 -78
4 -- Joey Logano 791 -81
5 -2 Brad Keselowski 782 -90
6 -- Jimmie Johnson 766 -106
7 +1 Carl Edwards 755 -117
8 -1 Kevin Harvick 748 -124
9 -- Ryan Newman 747 -125
10 +1 Greg Biffle 728 -144
11 +2 Kasey Kahne 708 -164
12 -2 Clint Bowyer 705 -167
Full Standings