The track was finally dry around 8:30 p.m. and the race ended just about three hours later.
Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag on a day where much attention was reverted to his late father and the return of his famed No. 3 racecar. Rookie Austin Dillon, who sat on the pole for Sunday’s race, assumed the number for the first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr. died on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Earnhardt Jr. said after the race that he thought about circling his victory lap while holding out three fingers to honor his famed father.
Dillon, who finished ninth, was among the drivers who went to Victory Lane to personally congratulate Earnhardt Jr.
“Junior has been so supportive of me bringing back the 3,” Dillon told ESPN. “I’ve gone to him for a lot of advice lately. I can’t thank him enough. He’s been awesome to me. It made this whole transition a lot easier.”
“If we didn’t have him onboard, it would have definitely been tough to do this,” Dillon said.
Earnhardt Jr. has been long probed from fans and media as to whether or not he’ll ever compete for a Sprint Cup title. With another Harley J. Earl trophy and all but a berth in this fall’s Chase for the Cup, it looks as if he could be a perennial power this season.
At least for now, the NASCAR world is right. Love him or not, it’s good to see Dale Jr. back in Victory Lane.