With final DIS start in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Coke Zero 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves an enduring legacy at Daytona International Speedway.
- Total of 17 DIS Victories Includes Two DAYTONA 500, Two in Coke Zero 400
- Victory Total Third All-Time Behind Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make his final Daytona International Speedway start in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition on July 1, in the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola. No matter the result, Earnhardt has already created a high-banked legacy certain to endure, with a career total of 17 victories at the “World Center of Racing.”
That overall total is third-best all-time, trailing only his father Dale Earnhardt’s 34 victories and Tony Stewart’s 19. Among those 17 triumphs are two victories apiece in the Coke Zero 400 and the DAYTONA 500. His other victories have come in the Can-Am Duel (five), Advance Auto Parts Clash (two), PowerShares QQQ 300 (three) and Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 (three).
Following is an “unofficial” top-five victories moments for Earnhardt at Daytona International Speedway. In lieu of ranking the wins, the listing is chronological.
After all … all 17 are special.
- July 7, 2001/ Coke Zero 400: In the first NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway since the death of his father in a last-lap accident in the DAYTONA 500, Earnhardt raced to a storybook victory on a hot summer night. It was arguably the most popular victory in the history of NASCAR. The race was followed by a massive tri-oval grass celebration involving Earnhardt, teammate and runner-up Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated team members. Afterward, the winner summed the night up perfectly: “You couldn’t have written a better script.”
- Feb. 15, 2004/DAYTONA 500: Winning the DAYTONA 500 for the first time, with President George W. Bush in attendance for a portion of the race, Earnhardt led 58 laps in the iconic No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet and nipped runner-up Tony Stewart by a scant .273 seconds. In the post-race press conference there was a classic moment. A speedway official interrupted the question-and-answer period by handing Earnhardt his cell phone. The president was on the line. Earnhardt had a brief conversation with Bush and then ended the call as, at that moment, only he could: “Thank you very much, take it easy man."
- July 2, 2010/Coca-Cola Firecracker 250: Driving a No. 3 Richard Childress-owned and Wrangler-sponsored Chevrolet in honor of his late father, Earnhardt won a NASCAR XFINITY Series race for the first time since 2006. Earnhardt held off Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in a “NASCAR Overtime” finish. “I worked hard to try to win, not only for Daddy but all these fans,” Earnhardt said. “It’s emotional.” Earnhardt also added that it was the last time he would drive a No. 3 car.
- Feb. 23, 2014/DAYTONA 500: Earnhardt’s second DAYTONA 500 victory, this time in the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet, gave car owner Rick Hendrick his eighth victory in “The Great American Race.” That major moment prompted another: Earnhardt tweeted for the first time at 2:30 a.m. the Monday morning after the race. His Twitter account had already been created, with nearly a quarter-million followers even though Earnhardt was absent. The milestone tweet: “Tonight seemed like as good a night as any to join Twitter. How is everyone doin? #2XDaytona500Champ.” His feed blew up. “I feel like I represent Junior Nation,” he said later that week. “I represent my fan base and the people that support our team.” A footnote: he now has more than two million Twitter followers.
- July 7, 2015/Coke Zero 400: A second victory in the Coke Zero 400 came after rain postponed the start of the race until Sunday night, with the finish actually coming early Monday morning. Driving the No. 88 Nationwide Stars and Stripes Chevrolet, Earnhardt started on the pole, led 40 of the first 80 laps and ended with a race-high 96 laps led. His talent at restrictor-plate races had been complemented by an exceptional Chevy. "I had a lot of fun tonight," Earnhardt said. “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.”
Tickets for the 59th annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola, the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 and other Daytona International Speedway events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.