CONCORD, N.C. -- Hendrick Motorsports has won eight Daytona 500s – good for second all-time, just one behind Petty Enterprise’s nine – and there have been plenty of memorable moments along the way.
Every win in “The Great American Race” is notable, of course, though the most recent one for the organization meant a little extra to the driver who captured it.
Entering the 2014 season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had won two races since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. But Earnhardt and then-crew chief Steve Letarte had high expectations for the upcoming campaign after putting together back-to-back seasons with 20 or more top-10 finishes.
“I always kind of wanted to leave some kind of mark (at Hendrick Motorsports),” Earnhardt recalled last year. “I wanted to leave some kind of mark that somebody would know I was here.”
He lined up ninth to start the 2014 season-opener, but it wasn’t until the second half of the Daytona 500 that his No. 88 Chevrolet really snapped into action.
Earnhardt’s race-high 54 laps led all came within the race’s final 70 laps. He took the lead on six separate occasions in the home stretch and held it for the final 18 laps to secure his second career Daytona 500 win.
“I just love seeing this make so many people happy,” Earnhardt said at the time. “When you cross the finish line, the first thing you want to do is go see the crew and see the look on their faces. That’s the reward for me.”
After the win, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick explained the importance of a Daytona 500 victory.
“It’s our biggest race – the Super Bowl of our sport,” he said at the time. “You want to win this race, so the amount of effort is just unbelievable.”
And the effort paid off that Feb. 23, 2014, the most recent win for Hendrick Motorsports in “The Great American Race.”
Years later, as he announced his impending retirement from the NASCAR Cup Series, Earnhardt reiterated just how important that one race was to him and his career.
“When we won that Daytona 500, that made me feel good about my impression on the company,” he said. “It's always fun to win with Rick, because that's what he loves the most.”