Anything less than a trip to victory lane would have been coming up short for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who accomplished just that as he raced his father’s No. 3 Wrangler car to the win on Friday at the Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Dale Jr. decided to pay tribute to his father by driving the throwback vehicle in commemoration of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. being inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s safe to say that Dale Jr. has had a rough time over the last couple of years. The race was Dale Jr.’s first victory since the 2008 Sprint Cup Series in Michigan, and he knew it was a must-win:
I was so worried that I wasn’t going to win, because nothing but winning was good enough. If you didn’t win, what a waste of time. I worked hard to try to win it, not only for Daddy, I am proud of him going into the Hall of Fame, and he would be proud of this, I’m sure.”
Now as heartwarming as this story is, my first instinct was to assume that this was all about the money like so much else in NASCAR often is. However, after taking a look at Ed Hinton’s blog over at ESPN.com, I feel free to be more optimistic, at least for the moment. This was a race that Dale Jr. wanted to run, and something that could have only been accomplished through the cooperation of, as Hinton lists, “Hendrick Motorsports (engines), Senior’s longtime car owner Richard Childress (rights to the number), Dale Jr. and Kelley’s JR Motorsports, and Teresa Earnhardt.” Dale Jr. showed real maturity in this race, and it’s safe to say he did justice to sending the No. 3 and his father into the Hall of Fame.
Dale Jr. nets Daytona Nationwide win in father’s No. 3 [AP/SI]
Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images