No. 3 takes checkered flag at Daytona 500 once more

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired Kyle Busch names top restrictor-plate NASCAR drivers

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired Kyle Busch names top restrictor-plate NASCAR drivers

It was past time for No. 3 to ride to the Daytona 500 victory lane once more.

Austin Dillon emerged victorious at Daytona 500 as the number three vehicle returned to victory lane 20 years after Dale Earnhardt Sr triumphed. With Austin Dillon's victory in the famed No. 3 and Bubba Wallace's history-making, second-place finish, NASCAR got perhaps its most promising glimpse to date of the next generation. He asked if he had really won the race, broke out a nice nod to Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Especially for Earnhardt, who recalled how much relief he felt when he first won the Daytona 500 in 2004.

Darrell Wallace Junior finished in second, and Denny Hamlin took third.

"My grandfather has done everything for me and everybody knows it", Dillon said. I just hugged him and said, 'Man, we got it.

Patrick, who announced her retirement at the end of last season, will drive in May's Indianapolis 500 for her final motorsports race. "I walked into the Holiday Inn and the lady said, 'Can I help you?' I said 'We just won the Daytona 500!" I knew how special this place was to my dad. But the significance of everything, I was just kind of celebrating with everybody.

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Earnhardt appeared relaxed, and during a late press conference Saturday night after his Xfinity drivers Tyler Reddick (the winner) and Elliott Sadler ended the season-opening race with the closest finish (0.000) since NASCAR went to electronic scoring in 1993, he talked about life after racing.

"We have to try our best to paint this picture for them and one of the greatest examples of this is when Daddy showed me the Ralph Earnhardt footage", Earnhardt said. I thought I was still gonna be OK, and somehow I got hooked. But we want to hear what you think - was the all-American race all you hoped it would be this year? I put every move I knew to try and stay in the lead and, unfortunately, I just wasn't able to hold on.

A very literal trip down memory lane, the minute-long spot encapsulates the iconic wheelman's relationship with his even more iconic father, charting his gradual evolution from son to successor to peer against the backdrop of Jim Croce's "I Got a Name". "The last lap of the Daytona 500, you just don't lift, actually the last couple laps", Dillon said, adding his only other option was to ease off the gas and avoid Almirola. Stenhouse would spin entering turn 3, collecting 8 front running cars.

Among those was Danica Patrick, who would not finish her final career NASCAR race. Ryan Blaney led a race-high 118 laps and wrecked Kurt Busch, last year's victor, trying to win the race.

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