Dillon wins at Daytona, returns No. 3 car to Victory Lane

Dillon wins at Daytona, returns No. 3 car to Victory Lane

Javier Howell
February 22, 2018

It has been 20 years since NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. finally won the race that had eluded him so many times. I didn't want to feel any negative feelings when I came here because I love Daytona. Bunching up the field gave a chance for others to challenge him.

"To come back 20 years later after Dale's great victory, and to be able to celebrate 20 years later, with my grandson, it is just a storybook tale", Childress said.

Thoughts immediately turned to the legendary racer who drove the No. 3 Chevy for the team owner Dillon knows as "Pop-Pop".

"Didn't make the right move", he said.

The car's owner from back in the glory days made no secret that this was an occasion of tribute as much as one of victory. It was the third vehicle Johnson wrecked this week. On the last lap, Aric Almirola stood between No. 3 and the finish line. He surged ahead to second entering the white flag lap and then engaged in a back-and-forth with Almirola. Dillon spun Almirola then whizzed on by to give Childress, his grandfather, another iconic victory in the beloved No. 3. I'm not gonna let that get me down.

"It was the last lap and we're all trying to win the Daytona 500", Almirola said.

His last was the Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001, when on the last lap he died as the result of a crash into a retaining wall after making contact with Ken Schrader and Sterling Marlin.

Many fans were irate after the event, claiming Dillon bumped Almirola as a cheap shot.

Johnson was one of seven drivers caught up in a wreck on the final lap of the first stage.

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Later in the day, after checking his Twitter and Instagram accounts, Dale Jr. took time for more introspective reflection: "Honesty I don't even think about it when the anniversary of dads passing comes annually".

Dillon even replicated the slide Earnhardt did in 1998 and did a burnout in the shape of a 3 in the infield grass.

"I knew we were in a good spot", Dillon said. "This place just creates history". That's why numerous series' rising stars bridge the sport's future with its storied past.

Earnhardt picked Joey Logano to win Sunday's race.

But a race that appeared set up for Blaney changed after a late caution for William Byron's spin.

With three laps to go, defending champion Kurt Busch lost control of his vehicle on the outside line and collected a wide array of drivers, including Alex Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

While Dillon's talent and connections were never in question, his vehicle number was.

And Richard Childress had a second, as far as the No. 3 is concerned. Who was standing with him in victory lane that day? I'm in a good financial position. I knew the anguish.