February 15, 2004 - It took his father 20 attempts to win the big one. Dale Earnhardt Jr. snared the Daytona 500, NASCAR's most celebrated race, in his fifth try.
Racing three years to the week after Dale Sr. was killed in a last-lap crash at the 500, the 29-year-old made a decisive move reminiscent of his legendary namesake. His No. 8 Chevy swooped inside of Tony Stewart on the 181st of 200 laps at Daytona International Speedway, passed the lead car and sped away to victory.
"He was over in the passenger side with me," Earnhardt said of his dad as he celebrated in Victory Lane. "I'm sure he was having a blast."
The race drew 180,000 fans, including President Bush, who gave Dale Jr. a congratulatory call afterward.
The victory marked the sixth-year anniversary of Dale Sr.'s only Daytona 500 victory. "In a way, it feels like I'm closer to my dad," Junior said. "At the same time, this is a reminder of losing him all over again."
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