No, he came to Daytona with only one thought on his mind: to win the July 2nd Subway Jalapeno 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the venerable high-banked superspeedway.
In a one-off deal driving a Chevrolet Impala owned by Richard Childress, who Earnhardt Sr. won six of his seven NASCAR Sprint Cup championships with, the younger Earnhardt held off stiff challenges from Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to score the popular and emotional triumph.
“I was so worried that I wasn't going to win, 'cause nothing but a win would get it-for everybody,” Earnhardt said in victory lane at the 2.5-mile track.
It was a huge triumph for Earnhardt, as he won his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race since Michigan International Speedway in August 2006, and scored his first NASCAR points race triumph of any kind since June 2008, also at MIS.
“If we didn't win, what a waste of time,” said a delighted, relieved and exhausted Earnhardt after the race. “ ... I worked hard to try to win, not only for daddy — I'm proud of him going to the Hall of Fame, and he would be proud of this, I'm sure — but just all these fans. I hope they enjoyed this. This is it. No more ‘3’ for me. That's it.”
Earnhardt’s victory is one of the nominees in the category of “Best Finish” in this year’s fifth annual SPEED Performance Awards. To vote for this entry or any of the the other nominees, click here: http://www.speedperformanceawards.com/category/best_finish
Fans can vote on nine categories, including the RACER Magazine Rookie of the Year. The remaining categories for fan-selected SPEED Performance Awards include Best Move, Biggest Hit, Best Rivalry, Oops, Best Finish, Best Comeback, Temper Temper and Biggest Upset.
For more info, check out www.speedperformanceawards.com.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.