Earnhardt riding high a day later

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to the Daytona International Speedway for the Champion’s Breakfast, the first stop on a whirl-wind media tour.

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Less than seven hours after winning the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to the Daytona International Speedway for the Champion’s Breakfast, the first stop on a whirl-wind media tour.

Also, the winning car was inducted into DIS’s Tickets and Tours Building and Speedway president Joie Chitwood and Earnhardt unveiled the logo for the 57th running of the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt, crew chief Steve Latarte and owner Rick Hendrick came to the breakfast deprived of sleep as they spent the wee hours of the morning with interviews, greeting well-wishers and celebrating with their teammates and families. According to the group, the celebrations ended around 4 a.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, with crew chief Steve Letarte
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, with crew chief Steve Letarte

Photo by: Covy Moore

“Being in victory lane was the highlight of my day,” Earnhardt said. “No. 88 is on a roll, and this year we are locked into the Chase. Steve (Latarte) and I have been watching a lot of films of victories that we weren’t in, so it will be a motivating feeling to see us racing to victory. I think about a lot of things like that. Winning this race is very special, and this is one where you can still be celebrating the next day.

“This is a special race track, and there’s nothing like it. You only get one shot a year at the Daytona 500 and maybe only 15 or 20 tries to do so.

Said Hendrick after receiving the owner’s trophy, “This is our Super Bowl trophy and winning the race is a special experience for all of us. That was a perfect race. I’ve never seen anyone drive a car like he did and he drove the wheels off it.”

Lartarte, well-spoken as always, described his methodical way of discharging his duties during the race along with heaping praise on his driver and the team. “This race is a big deal and when you grow up in racing, you know the three most important races in the world are the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of LeMans and the Daytona 500,” he commented. “I am so proud of this team, and Dale drove a great race.”

Race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Getty Images

To keep in touch with Junior Nation and others, Earnhardt jumped into the Twitter world last night and within no time he had 200,000 followers. He was prodded into doing social media by teammate Jimmie Johnson, who is a regular user.

Before entering the building, Earnhardt stopped in front of the statue of his late father to tweet a photo of it to his followers. “I think about dad, and Darrell (Waltrip), who won the Daytona 500, and Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, who didn’t get to win the race. Dad and Darrell finally got wins, and when I got to win it while young (2004), I thought it was pretty special. Once you win it once, it is like watching color TV, and you don’t want to go back to black and white.”

Earnhardt thought his well-prepared car made the difference. “We had everything perfect today, and the car kept telling me it was mine to win or lose. It would have been pretty foolish for me to go out and lose it.”

And win it he did and while not every driver would want to endure a non-stop media tour, Earnhardt said he was going to thoroughly enjoy it. With that said, he was whisked away for the first stop of many in the upcoming week.

Even though Earnhardt left the building, his crew stayed around to check-out the car and to autograph it¸ to preserve their place in the history of the 2014 Daytona winner.

Joe Jennings

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Race reports
Tags dale earnhardt jr., daytona 500, nascar-cup