Junior at peace with Daytona 17 yrs after Earnhardt's death

Courtesy of Goodyear

Inevitably, Dale Earnhardt Jr., the starter for Sunday's race, was asked about his father's legacy and his feelings on the Daytona 500 - a race he won in 2004 and 2014 - on Sunday at a pre-race press conference.

As Austin Dillon celebrated his Daytona 500 win Sunday, he couldn't help but remember the time he was standing there, in Victory Lane, 20 years ago this week.

'This is an unbelievable accomplishment and a monumental victory for the No. 3 team, ' said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.

The two-time Daytona 500 victor is the grand marshal for Sunday's season-opening race, and once his duties are complete, Earnhardt plans to watch "The Great American Race" from atop the pit box of pole-sitter Alex Bowman. Some like to suggest the title of runner-up only makes you the "first loser", but Daytona 500 runner-up Darrell "Bubba" Wallace might have buried that cliché Sunday evening.

"My grandfather has done everything for me and everybody knows it", Dillon said. We've got a lot of things racked up for the morning with the grand marshal opportunity that I have, and looking forward to that.

"I guess I could have lifted and given it to him", he said.

"I think the first couple times that he lost the fans that loved him were devastated and the fans that hated him were happy". "Just given him a Daytona 500 ring".

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Chris Buescher of JTG Daugherty Racing was fifth, Michael McDowell of Front Row Motorsports was ninth and Justin Marks of Rick Ware Racing finished 12th. He won the race on the 17th annivaseary of Dale Earnhardt's death.

"I have so many emotions going on right now", Wallace said.

Watch enough Daytona races, you know that lead will disappear when trailing cars hook up in a draft and gain momentum. If it feels weird or uncomfortable, or is not something I'm proud of, then I just don't have to do it. The two bumped with Almirola spinning into the wall, while Dillon went on to take a comfortable win. I said, Dale, 'What are doing?' He says, 'I got something I've got to do.' I knew he had something in his hand. We were in position I thought to have a good race. "We're going to keep kicking butt for the rest of the year".

On Feb. 18, 2001, Earnhardt was killed in a three-car crash on the final lap of the race, where he collided with Ken Schrader after making contact with Sterling Marlin.

Almirola's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch, led two laps (195-96) and was running second and trying to pass leader Denny Hamlin when Ryan Blaney got him sideways and triggered "The Big One" with two laps to go in regulation.

Childress: The lucky penny the little girl gave him is still on the dash today.

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