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Daytona recap: Earnhardt scores runner-up finish

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2010) – Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, showed why he always is a threat to win at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.

A 12-time race winner at the 2.5-mile speedway, Earnhardt made a charge for the lead in the final laps of the Daytona 500. Earnhardt passed eight cars in his No. 88 Chevrolet, but couldn’t pass leader Jamie McMurray and crossed the finish line second.

“I’m just disappointed to come that close and not win it,” said Earnhardt, who opened Sunday’s race from the outside pole position and led four laps. “I want to thank my team for working really hard.”

Earnhardt lined up next to teammate Mark Martin for the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, led the field to green from the pole position. Martin led twice for 11 laps and finished 12th.

Jeff Gordon used his back-up No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet and started Sunday’s event from the rear of the field. But it didn’t take long for the NASCAR veteran to start climbing. Gordon took the lead at the halfway point, but struggled to stay in the top 10 and finished 26th.

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, suffered an early tire issue after hitting a spot on the historic racetrack. Race officials spent more than 90 minutes patching the hole. Johnson, who started third after winning his Gatorade Duel last week, kept his spot on the lead lap. But with under 20 laps to go, Johnson was sidelined with a rear axle issue. He was scored with a 35th-place finish.

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