Dale Earnhardt, Jr. celebrates 2nd Daytona 500 win despite 1 hour of sleep in busy media interaction

Dale Earnhardt, Jr on morning after winning Daytona 500 / Headline Surfer®Dale Earnhardt, Jr. team shot / Headline Surfer®Getty Images/NASCAR /
for Headline Surfer® / Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sits for media interviews on Monday after his second Daytona 500 victory. In the inset, Earnhardt's entire racing team poses with the winning No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet.
 

DAYTONA BEACH -- Running on only one hour of sleep, now two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt, Jr. embarked on his week-long whirlwind media tour Monday morning after installing his No. 88 National Guard Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet inside the Daytona International Speedway Ticket and Tours Building.

The car will be part of the Daytona International Speedway tours program and will be returned to the team at the 2015 DAYTONA 500, a tradition that has been in existence since 1996.

Earnhardt, crew chief Steve Letarte, team owner Rick Hendrick and the crew of the No. 88 car enjoyed a breakfast with the media and participated in interviews and pictures on Monday morning.

"I was taking pictures and doing media until about 3 a.m.," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The team was having most of the fun. When I got over there, they were out of spirits so we found some more and we just sat around and talked about how cool it was - just punching each other in the shoulder until about 4 a.m. and then I had to hang it up."

Trophy for Daytona 500 / Headline Surfer®Photo for Headline Surfer® /
Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy went to Earnhardt team owner Rick Hendrick.
 

During the Champion's Breakfast, Speedway President Joie Chitwood presented all three Daytona 500 champions with their leather jackets, Hendrick with his Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy and Letarte with the Cannonball Baker trophy.

Chitwood and Earnhardt Jr. also unveiled the logo for next year's 57th annual Daytona 500. The Champion's Breakfast isn't the only obligation that comes with winning "The Great American Race."

Earnhardt Jr. then hopped on a plane for stops in New York City, ESPN in Bristol, Conn.,  and Los Angeles, before appearing "I'm looking forward to it and I want to enjoy it," said Earnhardt Jr., who will be appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman on Monday night.

"We won a big race, we put a lot of effort into it and I'm going to make sure everybody hears about it," Earnhardt said, prior to leaving Daytona International Speedway on Monday morning.

"We won a big race, we put a lot of effort into it and I'm going to make sure everybody hears about it," Earnhardt said, prior to leaving Daytona International Speedway on Monday morning.

Earnhardt crew chief Steve Letarte said the whole thing felt pretty surreal.

"What races do you still celebrate the next day?," Letarte asked. "You have a breakfast and keep getting trophies and jackets. I'm proud of the team we've assembled. They're a great group of guys and deserve most of the credit. They built a great race car, Dale drove a great race and we're excited."

Earnhardt team owner Rick Hendrick agreed

"That was a perfect race," said, Hendrick, enjoying his eighth Daytona 500 win as an owner. "He drove the wheels off the car every lap. Stevie called a perfect race, pit stops were perfect and TJ (Majors) did an unbelievable job up there spotting. I'm so proud."

Asked to sum up the second Daytona 500 victory, Earnhardt responded, "This place just has a lot of great history. It's a great race track. You drive into it and you get a special feeling you don't get anywhere else. As soon as you drive through the tunnel you know where you're at. There are some great facilities and unique tracks and places we go that I have a lot of appreciation for, but nothing like Daytona."

Asked to sum up the second Daytona 500 victory, Earnhardt responded, "This place just has a lot of great history. It's a great race track. You drive into it and you get a special feeling you don't get anywhere else. As soon as you drive through the tunnel you know where you're at. There are some great facilities and unique tracks and places we go that I have a lot of appreciation for, but nothing like Daytona."

Daytona 500 recap:

Junior celebrates 2nd Daytona 500 win / Headline Surfer®Dale Earnhardt, Jr. takes checkered flag in 2014 Daytona 500 / Headline Surfer®Getty Images / NASCAR / for Headline Surfer® /
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 23, 2014, in Daytona Beach, Fla.
DAYTONA BEACH -- A decade after his first Daytona 500 victory, Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to Gatorade Victory Lane in a thrilling finish to the 56th annual race Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, despite heavy rain that forced the race to be delayed midway through for six-plus hours.
After being the runner-up three of the last four years, Earnhardt – who had not won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at DIS since his Budweiser Duel and Sprint Unlimited wins during the 2008 Speedweeks – took the time to let it soak in with a long, reverse-lap drive down the front stretch of the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
“To win this race is the greatest feeling you can feel in this sport, aside from accepting the trophy for the championship,” Earnhardt said, after climbing out of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to feel this again and it feels just as good, if not better than the first (win) because of how hard we tried year after year after year, running second all of those years.
Earnhard led a race-high 54 of the 200 laps. 
Coming in second was Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. 
There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, the most in the season opener since 2011. Hendrick Motorsports had a strong showing and held the top-three spots with under 10 laps to go. Gordon ended up fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth.
Chevrolet held five of top-10 positions and has won the Daytona 500 six of the last seven years. The 43-car field included nine former Daytona 500 winners.
With a ninth-place finish, the highest-finishing rookie was Austin Dillon, who qualified the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet on the pole and led the first lap. The race marked the return of the No. 3 car, driven by the late Dale Earnhardt (killed in the 2001 Daytona 500) to NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
The race was red flagged for 6 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds for rain and slowed seven times for 39 laps. 
Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.