DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - When Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead early in the Daytona 500, there was a raucous roar all around the famed speedway.
When he hit the wall late, there was an agonizing groan.
It wasn’t what Earnhardt _ or his legion of faithful fans _ wanted in the Great American Race. It was, however, fitting considering how the season opener went for Hendrick Motorsports.
“Had as much fun as we could under the circumstances,” Earnhardt said.
His teammates couldn’t even say that.
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had lengthy trips to the garage, and Mark Martin faded from contention in the final laps. Throw in Earnhardt’s ride to the infield care center, and the Daytona 500 was one to forget for team owner Rick Hendrick and his powerhouse team.
“Very disappointing,” Gordon said. “It’s definitely not what we wanted. It’s disappointing when you don’t have a shot in the Daytona 500, especially when you have as good a car and team as we all do.”
He stayed in contention most of the race and had fans on the edge of their seats thinking Junior might end up in Victory Lane a decade after that fateful finish at Daytona.
Martin was three laps behind after sustaining some minor damage in the big wreck early. He made a strong comeback, taking advantage of NASCAR’s free-pass rule to get back on the lead lap. He was running in the top five late but couldn’t keep up with the lead pack.
Martin extended his winless streak in the Daytona 500. He’s now 0 for 27.View Entire Story
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