NEW YORK – American Nascar driver and winner of the 2014 Daytona 500 Dale Earnhardt Jr. appears on this week’s regional cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (3/3/14)—on newsstands NOW. Click here to see the full cover.
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Earnhardt's last appearance on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was Feb. 18, 2008, in a NASCAR Preview Issue of the Daytona 500. Now, at 39 years-old, NASCAR’s most popular driver is gunning for a career-defining title with his newfound confidence on the track. The most recent win at Daytona marks an incredible accomplishment for Earnhardt, and serves as a warning sign for all future competitors. This is only the start of something big.
As all drivers were summoned back to their cars after a rain delay, Earnhardt returned to his No. 88 Chevy with clear eyes and focus. The race restarted at Lap 39 where he quickly took the lead around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. Of Earnhardt’s storied performance SI’s Lars Anderson writes, “While four multicar wrecks left two dozen cars damaged, most of the sport's big names ran up front throughout. Earnhardt teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon challenged late, as did Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Earnhardt covered every move, nailing his restarts to lead 54 of the last 70 laps, holding off Hamlin over the final two turns. It was by far the most spectacular single-race performance of Junior's 15-year Cup career. On this long, wet night, he indeed drove like the Intimidator, and drew a roar like thunder from the grandstands as he reached out to snatch the checkered flag from the flagman.” (Page 42)
With memories of watching his father, the late Dale Earnhardt the seven-time NASCAR champion, Earnhardt win brings an extra sense of triumph. “I think of my dad when I’m here, but not the way people might imagine,” Dale Jr. said. “I feel good here now. I have good feelings about him. I think he’d be proud now.” Now after winning the Daytona 500 for a second time, he is ready to keep the momentum going in his upcoming races this season saying, "My confidence level has never been higher, and that's critical for me," he says. "We're going to run our guts out every week." (Page 44)