Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the 2014 Daytona 500

Tom Pennington

Dale Jr. won the Great American Race for the first time since 2004.

Sure, it took about 6 hours 22 minutes longer than he would have hoped, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. can't complain after winning the Daytona 500 on Sunday. It's Earnhardt's first Daytona 500 victory since 2004.

With cars colliding behind him, Dale Jr. led Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski back to the start/finish line for the victory.

"[Earnhardt] earned this in every sense of the word," Keselowski said after the race.

The fourth wreck of the day in Lap 194 forced the Great American Race to a late reset. After being hit by pole-sitter Austin Dillon, Ryan Truex Jr. went sideways and collected six cars near middle of the pack to cause the caution.

Weather was an issue for much of the day, with the threat of rain surprising no one after days of weather fears showing up in the forecast. The race was stopped in the 38th lap and didn't resume for more than six hours. In between, a light rain turned torrential, and fans were urged to evacuate when a tornado warning was declared for the area.

Outside of that, the first 145 laps or so of the 500 were rather uneventful, with a long string of green flag laps being run after the restart. Then wrecks on laps 145, 162 and 183 caused a number of contenders to be sent to the garage. Danica Patrick was wrecked in a hard hit on the first accident, while rookie of the year favorite Kyle Larson was taken out by fellow rookie Austin Dillon on Lap 162. 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne was wrecked on 183.

Engines were an issue for a couple of other drivers: Outside-pole-sitter Truex had engine issues with his backup car on Lap 32 before his day ended in the garage. Clint Bowyer followed later, being ruled out at Lap 140. Tony Stewart, who had engine issues during practice more than a week earlier, went to the garage before returning to the track 27 laps down.

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