Well, unless you follow the NASCAR Winston Cup racing series, you won't be able to truly understand this.
After the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. on February 18, 2001 I thought that I would never again be able to watch a NASCAR race, but of course I did. I watched it because I wanted so badly to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. win a race this season. And on the night of July 7, 2001 he did, and it was a race he so richly deserved.
It was the 43rd annual Pepsi 400, and the first return to the Daytona track for any of the drivers since February. Dale Jr. dominated most of the race and led 102 of the 160 laps. After two late cautions, Dale Jr. found himself in 6th with only 6 laps to go, but when the green flag dropped he showed his "Intimidator" heritage and shot up to the lead position in just 2 laps. He held off both Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart, who both got black flagged for dropping below the yellow "out-of-bounds" line.
Teammate and Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip found his way up to second with just 2 laps remaining. The two DEI drivers held off the pack for the remainder of the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Pepsi 400, and Michael Waltrip (who finished second) was finally able to celebrate his first ever NASCAR Winston Cup victory: The Daytona 500.
This win was even more special to Little "E" because it fell on the 11-year anniversary of his father's first ever NASCAR Winston Cup win at the 32nd Pepsi 400 on July 7, 1990. Exactly 11 years to the date, and most fans will tell you that Earnhardt Sr. was riding alongside his son the whole time.
As Dale Jr. pulled into Victory Lane, I shed a tear. But this time, it was a tear of joy instead of grief, because this was an event to truly celebrate. I think this was the race that Little "E" needed to get himself back on track after such a horrible season opener. Now he will definitely be a driver to keep an eye on this year.
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