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Junior’s 2001 victory still resonates at Daytona
Question of the Day
Earnhardt Jr. spun doughnuts in the grass, then climbed out of his car and jumped into the waiting arms of his crew. He eventually joined Waltrip atop his Chevrolet and shared a hug that seemed to last as long as the fireworks and fanfare.
“You can’t script sports,” Waltrip said. “We have 43 cars out there, and even if you wanted to script it, you couldn’t. Sometimes fate intervenes and you get a special moment in time. That night here, right over there, 10 years ago, was special. And this place wouldn’t be near as special if you didn’t hate it at times.”
Although Steve Park gave DEI a win the week after Earnhardt’s death and Kevin Harvick provided Earnhardt’s longtime car owner, Richard Childress, a victory in Atlanta a month later, winning at Daytona rendered more closure for family members, friends and fans.
“I don’t want to put my win on a pedestal among all the great things that a lot of people did that would have brought a little closure to the situation,” Junior said. “It definitely helped me. I think it helped some people in my family. My dad’s sisters and brothers had mentioned that it was a really neat moment for them. It is what it is. We had an awesome car and you couldn’t write a better story.”
Another victory 10 years later might come close.
But winning at Daytona in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 might be tougher than ever. The recently repaved track and the tandem racing it has created have changed the way cars circle NASCAR’s famed speedway.
And Earnhardt has reluctantly embraced the new ways.
“I’d rather have control of my own destiny and be able to go out there and race and just do my own work and worry about my own self,” he said. “It’s really weird and kind of wrong on some levels to race that way and to think like you think. You take care of somebody and you feel this obligation to take care of them and then worry about having them take care of you and how that makes them feel.
“It is just different and weird. … If you had a car that (you could) drive up through there and you were smart about drafting and knew what you were doing, you could make some cool things happen.”
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