DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. roared to the front with five laps left and held off the four time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon for the win. This was only the second time Earnhardt had qualified for non-points season special featuring...
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. roared to the front with five laps left and held off the four time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon for the win. This was only the second time Earnhardt had qualified for non-points season special featuring last year's pole winners. In 2002, he finished second to Tony Stewart.
"This is a drivers' track sometimes, and you have to know what you are doing, especially when the tires get worn," Earnhardt said. "I love this track. This is like coming home to your mom from college or something. It's great to be back here."
Earnhardt, who started dead last in a field of 19 cars, steadily worked his way through the field taking the lead for the first time at lap 16. Under the new format, teams raced for20 laps, then took a 10-minute intermission, during which their crews were allowed to make adjustments on their cars.
After the intermission, Earnhardt went head to head with Matt Kenseth exchanging the lead five times before Jeff Gordon smoked them both and grabbed the lead. Gordon remained in the lead until pit stops on lap 51, where varying tire and fuel strategies shuffled the field. Gordon, however, would reassume the lead a few laps later. He could not hold off Earnhardt, who charged to the front and blew by Gordon.
Gordon would finish second.
"I was looking good with five to go," Gordon said. "But Junior is so strong on these restrictor- plate tracks."
Rounding out the top-5, were Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and defending race champion Ward Burton. Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart finished a disappointing 15th.
Earnhardt takes home $205,000 for his efforts.