Under any circumstances, winning his Can-Am Duel on Thursday was nice for Dale Earnhardt Jr., but winning a race at Daytona International Speedway on the 15th anniversary of his father’s death here made it something really special.
Earnhardt Jr. dominated the opening Duel, leading 43 of 60 laps to capture this race for the fifth time, most of any active driver.
But it was the significance of the date that was on Earnhardt’s mind before the race.
"I was daydreaming a little bit," Earnhardt said in his post-race interview. "I’m guilty of daydreaming a little bit about winning this race tonight because of the day. That was special to me. Glad nothing bad happened, that we didn’t tear our car up, because that would have been embarrassing on a day like this."
There was nothing for Earnhardt to be even remotely embarrassed about. He drove a sound race, had a fast car and won easily.
"It’s real special," Earnhardt admitted. "I was thinking about that. I try not to make too big a deal. I’ve told all you guys in interviews we’ve done how much I like people to remember dad, talk about dad. It really warms my heart to see the stuff on social media and so forth. That’s probably my best way to gauge the reaction to a day like this. You see a lot of people mention him … It’s pretty cool."