banner
Jerry Bonkowski

Earnhardt's 2nd Daytona win gives reward to loyal fan base

Posted February 24

— After Sunday's Daytona 500, it only seems as if there's suddenly a groundswell to rename this city as Daletona Beach.

Following arguably the biggest win of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Sprint Cup career – his second Daytona 500 victory that comes 10 years after his first – his celebrated army of fans known as Junior Nation can once again hold their heads up high and brag about their favorite driver.

"I know I have a lot of fans that are real happy about what we did tonight and can't wait to go hang around the water cooler and brag to their buddies tomorrow," Earnhardt said Sunday night after taking the checkered flag.

It was not an easy race by any means, from either a logistical or performance standpoint.

First, there was a nearly six-and-a-half hour rain delay. Second, there were four large, multi-car wrecks once the track was dried and racing resumed - not to mention several other drivers whose day or night came to an early end due to mechanical failure.

Any one of those aforementioned wrecks could have brought an abrupt end to Earnhardt's day had he been caught up in the resulting mess, but by fate, good fortune, kismet – or whatever you want to call it – Earnhardt continually found himself in the right place at the right time throughout the race's 201 laps.

He not only was untouchable, he was invincible.

And the best place of all was when he crossed the start-finish line first for only the second time since the start of the 2007 season.

To say this was a big win for Earnhardt is putting it mildly. Rather, it was a must-win in a season that has perhaps the greatest significance ever in Earnhardt's now 15-year Sprint Cup career.

He has so much to win for in 2014:

* He turns 40 this year, knowing that once he crosses that threshold, opportunities to win a championship will become less likely with each passing season as his advancing age catches up with and starts to dull his fine motor skills. He knows he's not as young as he once was. He's outgrown and become too old for his once rock star lifestyle, and that if there was ever a time he needed to be a Sprint Cup champion, 2014 is it.

* He wants to send crew chief Steve Letarte out as a winner. Letarte is leaving Earnhardt and Hendrick Motorsports at the end of this season to become a TV analyst for NBC telecasts of NASCAR races starting in 2015. Junior gave Letarte perhaps the biggest present of his life with Sunday's win. No matter where Letarte goes from here, he'll always carry the badge of honor of being a Daytona 500 winning crew chief. The only present that could out-do what Earnhardt gave to Letarte with Sunday's win is a championship at season's end.

* More than anything, Earnhardt is perhaps as serious as he's ever been about, well, being serious about living up to all the hopes and expectations placed upon him by his loyal fans. They have waited, hoped, prayed and ultimately wound up disappointed every year since he became a full-time driver on the Sprint Cup circuit in 2000. It's time for Junior to repay his fans' faith and belief in him. It's time for Junior to give back after taking so much when it comes to fan support and the kind of idolizing that has made him the sport's most popular driver for the last 11 years running.

However, we've also seen this movie and watched this rodeo a couple of other times. When he won at Michigan in 2008 after not having won a race for nearly two seasons, his fans expected Earnhardt to go on a huge winning streak. Even Junior himself promised that.

Unfortunately, that promise wound up being hollow, as the next Cup race he would win – and up until Sunday, the only Cup race he had won with Letarte as his crew chief – was in 2012, again at Michigan, snapping a winless streak that surpassed 130 races.

Now, Junior has begun another winning streak. It's at one. Will he be able to get No. 2 this weekend at Phoenix? Or how about in two weeks at Las Vegas? Perhaps Bristol next month? Talladega or Richmond, his two most successful tracks?

Or will Earnhardt once again fall into yet another winless streak that lasts the rest of this season and potentially beyond?

As the old saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

After all the celebrating Sunday and all the bragging and trash talking that'll go on Monday and for the next several days, your millions of loyal fans likely couldn't stand to have their hearts broken yet again for a 16th straight year.

Please tell us, Junior, that you won't fool us a third time.

Follow Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski and catch him at 7:25 a.m. every Friday morning with Mark & Mike on 620 The Buzz.

10 Comments

This blogpost is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Doc Holliday Feb 24, 11:02 p.m.

    The Deputy Sheriff appears to be shooting somebody the bird in the pic. lol

    It's just the way he's grabbing the fence but it looks funny.

  • Kattywompus Feb 24, 7:45 p.m.

    This is a liberal ploy. Fox News reported Jimmie Johnson was the winner of Daytona.

  • InTheNo Feb 24, 6:07 p.m.

    I seriously doubt that you're an Earnhardt fan, Bonekowski. So... what's it to you? He's won more Nascar races than you have hasn't he?

  • countrymandhc Feb 24, 2:32 p.m.

    Looks no matter who drives the 3 it's causing wrecks . Would like to see restrictor plate off 88 . Look like he had a lot more on restarts than even the other Hendrick cars. This time Danica's wreck wasn't her fault.

  • sunshine1040 Feb 24, 1:18 p.m.

    Way to go Dale keep up the good work

  • baldchip Feb 24, 12:43 p.m.

    Good race-Daddy's smiling down today!!

  • littleriver69 Feb 24, 12:37 p.m.

    I see Manica was her usual self. Almost Last!!

  • Tizu Feb 24, 9:38 a.m.

    LOL at the folks who thought Jimmie Johnson won due to the replay of LAST YEAR's Daytona 500. :)

    Great job, Junior. The last 58 laps were dominant. He deserved and earned the win.

  • mcorson2 Feb 24, 9:25 a.m.

    He deserves it! way to go Dale!

  • sburks1906 Feb 24, 8:59 a.m.

    Way to go Junior! WHOO-HOO!!!

  • NFL: Panthers vs. Cleveland

    Today at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Indianapolis at Dallas

    Today at 4:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Sun Bowl: Duke vs. Arizona State

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Panthers vs Cleveland

    Today at 1:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • WCBB: Duke vs. Kentucky

    Today at 3:00 pm on 620am

  • NHL: Hurricanes at NY Rangers

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • CBB: Louisiana Tech at NC State

    Tuesday at 7:00 pm on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
Final
UNCW 66
ECU 54
Final
CAR 2
NYR 3
Final
CHA 104
UTA 86
Final
WVU 83
NCSU 69
 
1:00pm Today
CAR
CLE
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
 
Final
NYK 90
PHO 99
Final
NOP 88
POR 114
Final
CHA 104
UTA 86
Final
HOU 97
ATL 104
Final
DAL 99
SAN 93
Final
DEN 76
IND 73
Final
LAC 106
MIL 102
 
3:30pm Today
TOR
NYK
 
4:30pm Today
CLE
MEM
 
6:00pm Tonight
MIA
BOS
 
6:00pm Tonight
BRK
DET
 
6:00pm Tonight
SAC
LAL
 
6:00pm Tonight
ORL
PHI
 
6:00pm Tonight
WAS
PHO
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIN
IND
 
7:00pm Tonight
OKC
NOP
 
Final
LALAF 16
NEV 3
Final
UTEP 6
UTST 21
Final
COLST 10
UTAH 45
Final
AFA 38
WMICH 24
Final
BGU 33
SALABAMA 28
 
Final
GEOR 81
CHAR 78
Final
WKENT 67
LOU 76
Final
MICH 51
SMU 62
Final
CIN 47
VCU 68
Final
BSU 77
ABCHRIST 33
 
Final
PROV 85
UMASS 65
Final
AMER 46
MNTER 45
 
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
IUPUI 71
SALA 65
 
Final
VILL 82
SYR 77
Final
VT 64
CITA 61
Final
DUQ 79
MLOWELL 63
 
Final
FAIR 61
BEL 73
 
Final
YALE 60
GTDNS 64
 
Final
FD 76
DEL 74
 
Final
PSU 73
DREX 68
Final
UNCG 64
ELON 71
 
Final
ILL 62
MIZZ 59
Final
CAMP 90
MONT 64
 
Final
LONG 106
PSUBEAVER 74
 
Final
HOU 63
SCST 71
 
Final
FSU 75
SFLA 62
Final
BING 51
BONA 69
 
Final
RUTG 68
RFLSH 73
 
Final
MCNST 69
TOL 83
 
Final
JVU 84
TRUETT 55
 
Final
GT 65
VANDY 60
Final
INDST 56
EILL 60
 
Final
BUT 73
IND 82
Final
STEPH 94
ARTCH 57
 
Final
OREG 83
DELST 70
 
Final
Terriers 61
FATL 56
 
Final
TXARL 89
HPYN 50
 
Final
KU 96
LAF 69
Final
ARKST 67
MARS 58
Final
MEM 78
ORU 63
Final
KNST 53
UMBC 66
 
Final
NW 67
WMICH 61
Final
MIZST 65
EMICH 77
 
Final
CHIST 77
STJOE 54
 
Final
KENT 83
UCLA 44
Final
COC 68
DAVID 80
Final
RIU 69
DET 55
Final
UCR 78
HOUB 67
 
Final
MURST 89
ILLST 77
 
Final
NWST 89
LALAF 85
 
Final
WAGN 66
MON 74
 
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
Final
PITT 81
OU 77
Final
TENNM 77
PBY 60
 
Final
WYO 57
SOUTH 39
 
Final
AFA 75
UCD 81
Final
MSST 51
USCU 53
 
Final
JMU 71
HIGH 80
 
Final
TXST 90
HTILL 56
 
Final
DRAK 54
ISU 83
Final
SHU 73
UNH 60
 
Final
SCU 72
NE 78
 
Final
MSU 64
TXSOU 71
Final
UF 63
WAKE 50
Final
ND 94
PURD 63
Final
SHSU 61
PVU 44
 
Final
AUB 89
XAV 88
Final
AKR 92
BLUFFTON 53
 
Final
DAY 78
BU 62
 
Final
UNCW 66
ECU 54
Final
CLMB 82
HOF 77
 
Final
GMAS 86
IONA 81
Final
TOWS 53
LAS 67
Final
MAN 73
MRGST 69
 
Final
CCST 76
YALE 84
 
Final
PEPP 63
RICH 65
Final
MAR 58
STJOE 75
Final
KYST 71
TEXAM 64
Final
MAST 72
VALPO 75
 
Final
UMKC 104
INCWORD 110
 
Final
IDST 50
CALST 59
 
Final
NIOWA 56
IOWA 44
Final
SIUE 61
UWMIL 56
 
Final
TEX 78
LBSU 68
Final
TCU 88
TXSA 57
Final
ARK 84
SEMIZ 67
 
Final
NCOL 69
JVST 60
 
Final
ARST 81
LEH 84
 
Final
NMST 67
NMU 69
 
Final
WASH 69
OKLA 67
 
Final
GRCN 81
STED 55
 
Final
WEBER 73
WLVRN 61
 
Final
WVU 83
NCSU 69
 
Final
SDST 70
BST 57
 
Final
GONZ 63
CPSL 50
 
Final
PAC 71
FRES 68
 
Final
PORT 87
MNTST 60
 
Final
CSNO 68
TAMCC 75
 
Final
UTST 65
SDKST 68
 
2nd
BYU 79
STAN 77
 
2nd
UNLV 28
UTAH 32
 
12:00pm Today
UVA
HARV
 
1:00pm Today
BGU
FERST
 
1:00pm Today
ARMY
MAINE
 
1:00pm Today
QUIN
ORST
 
1:00pm Today
CLST
USF
 
1:30pm Today
CARK
CCAR
 
2:00pm Today
UWGB
ARKLR
 
2:00pm Today
RAD
CORN
 
2:00pm Today
UNT
CREI
 
2:00pm Today
CAN
HC
 
2:00pm Today
USB
GHND
 
2:00pm Today
OKST
MD
 
2:00pm Today
WINT
REIN
 
2:00pm Today
UGST
SMISS
 
2:00pm Today
NEOM
TXPA
 
2:00pm Today
STLU
VERM
 
2:00pm Today
UNCA
WCU
 
2:05pm Today
EVAN
ALAST
 
2:30pm Today
HART
FIU
 
2:35pm Today
VALPO
GOSHEN
 
3:00pm Today
LIP
PEAY
 
3:00pm Today
DEN
BRY
 
3:00pm Today
MONT
SD
 
3:00pm Today
MTST
TENST
 
3:00pm Today
SAMF
LAMON
 
3:30pm Today
SCAR
COKR
 
4:00pm Today
HAMP
NARZ
 
4:00pm Today
SDU
SDCHR
 
4:00pm Today
BC
USC
 
4:30pm Today
NICST
TROY
 
4:30pm Today
BRAD
UCI
 
6:00pm Tonight
UGA
SHU
 
6:30pm Tonight
ALA
APP
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NDST
 
7:00pm Tonight
WASU
SJST
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ALCOR
 
10:00pm Tonight
SEAT
SACST
 
Final
LOS 4
ARI 2
Final
CLB 3
CHI 2
Final
BUF 1
COL 5
Final
PIT 3
FLA 1
Final
CAR 2
NYR 3
Final
MON 4
OTT 1
Final
TOR 4
PHI 7
Final
NYI 3
TAM 1
Final
NJD 0
WAS 4
Final
MIN 5
NAS 6
Final
VAN 3
CAL 2
1st OT
SJS 2
STL 2
 
6:00pm Tonight
DET
COL
 
6:00pm Tonight
EDM
DAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
BUF
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
TOR
 
9:00pm Tonight
WIN
PHI
 
Final
WAS 27
PHI 24
Final
SFX 35
SDC 38
1:00pm Today
NOS
ATL
1:00pm Today
HOU
BAL
1:00pm Today
CAR
CLE
1:00pm Today
CHI
DET
1:00pm Today
TAM
GBP
1:00pm Today
PIT
KAN
1:00pm Today
MIA
MIN
1:00pm Today
NYJ
NEP
4:05pm Today
STL
NYG
4:25pm Today
OAK
BUF
4:25pm Today
DAL
IND
8:30pm Tonight
ARI
SEA