(WOMR file photo)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. endured a weekend of rain, a three-hour-plus pre-race delay, and nine caution flags to win the Coke-Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway early Monday morning.
The race ended at 2:41 a.m. ET and concluded with a horrific crash featuring Austin Dillon’s iconic No. 3 Chevrolet going airborne, barrell rolling, smashing into the catch-fence after he crossed the start-finish line, shredding the sheet metal from the front en to rhe fire-wall, extracting the motor, and spewing shrapnel into the crowd! Dillon walked away from the wreck, the fourth major crash of the night. After being released from the infield care center, Dillon said he suffered a bruised tailbone and forearm.
After starting on the pole, Earnhardt dominated the night, leading 96 laps in his No. 88 Nationwide Stars and Stripes Chevrolet. He also had the convincing support of the fans remaining at the track following the 154-minute (2 hours and 34 minutes) rain delay. The delay was a just a prelude for the race itself, which included four multi-car crashes and those nine caution flags that covered 43 of the scheduled 160 laps, before the green-white checkered finish. It was Earnhardt’s fourth NASCAR points paying Sprint Cup career victory on the 2.5-mile Florida track.
“I had a lot of fun tonight,” a somewhat subdued Earnhardt said after the race. “We have such great motors and good cars. We ran very fast. I had to block a lot, get a lot of pushes from everybody. I had to run real hard to win this race here. We got shuffled back a few times.”
Driver Paul Menard could have been speaking for everyone at the speedway when he said on his radio during the race that Earnhardt’s No. 88 was “ridiculously” fast. Earnhardt consistently outran the competition on re-start after re-start.
Earnhardt’s crew raced onto the track after the last-lap crash to check on Dillon’s condition. They were very quick to help extract Dillon frfom what was left of the “green house” or cockpit of the car, and signalled to all that he was ok with thier thumbs held high inot the air for all to see!
The catch fences at Daytona International Speedway were reinforced following an accident in 2013 during a NASCAR XFINITY Series race when Kyle Larson’s car sailed into the catchfence about 100 yards prior to the start/finish line. Larson’s race car too was shredded with nothing left from the fire-wall forward, and several spectators swere injured from the debris!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!