DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. can finally call himself a Daytona 500 champion.
The son of 1998 winner Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in the fourth turn of the final lap at this race in 2001, was able to hold off a determined charge from Tony Stewart on Sunday and win the season-opening event on the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule.
Stewart led the most laps before giving way to Earnhardt with 19 remaining.
Once Earnhardt was in front, he stayed there until the checkered flag.
Earnhardt parked at the start-finish line, jumped out of the driver's side window and pumped a fist into the air.
Stewart passed Wimmer for the lead in the third turn on lap 175. Earnhardt also passed Wimmer's Dodge, setting up the battle between NASCAR's two most determined drivers.