The old saying goes that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Last night the Daytona 500 was a marathon and then some. The rain-delayed event took over nine hours to complete. When it was all said and done Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to drive his way into victory lane, winning his second Daytona 500.
In the world of NASCAR, winning this race is much more than a win. A Daytona 500 victory is second only to winning the NASCAR Championship. For Earnhardt winning this race may very well have put him in the prime position to win a championship this season.
In the last seven seasons Earnhardt has only found victory lane twice. Although he has greatly improved his consistency with good finishes as of late, he still has struggled to win races. With the way the new championship format works, wins reign supreme. Winning a race during the regular season almost guarantees you a spot in the chase. Depending on how the season shakes out, wins might be the only way to qualify a driver for the chase.
One race into the season and Earnhardt has put himself in a terrific position to make the chase.
With a victory under his belt, Earnhardt should be able to go into the rest of the season with some weight lifted off of his shoulders. Having already notched that elusive win, Earnhardt shouldn’t be forced to press in the latter parts of the season that have caused him to make mistakes in the past. This is not to say that he can tank the rest of the season and still expect to contend for a championship. Earnhardt will still have to remain consistent for the rest of the regular season and during the chase itself.
Once it becomes chase time and the points are wiped clean, wins will once again become paramount.
All of that is several weeks away though. As things stand now Earnhardt finds himself in a very good place, a place that he isn’t all that familiar with. As things stand now all is well in Earnhardt Nation and all looks to remain well for the foreseeable future.