Monday, February 28, 2011

Late Wreck Stops Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Storybook Daytona 500 Ending

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s shoulders may well have borne 500 miles worth of expectations this week at Daytona.

Marking 10 years since the death of his legendary father in NASCAR's most important race, Earnhardt Jr. served as the central beacon of a sport remembering the passing of one of its most legendary drivers.

The sport's most popular driver also has been the most talked about non-factor for most of the last three seasons and has seen his share of changes in the Hendrick Motorsports program around him. A new crew chief -- Steve Letarte -- was in his ear.

Sunday, none of it seemed to be a distraction as Earnhardt sliced his way through the field time and again to find the front -- and occasionally lead -- one of the most unusual Daytona 500s in recent memory.

However, the chaotic nature of NASCAR's season-opening beast, a race marked by the most cautions and lead changes in the event's 53-year history, finally caught up with Earnhardt moments from the end.


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