DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. is Dale Earnhardt Jr. again.
A multi-car wreck erupted as Earnhardt charged to the checkered flag while holding off Denny Hamlin and the caution flag secured his victory in Sunday night's rain-delayed Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
The victory is Earnhardt's second in the Great American Race and his first win on a superspeedway - the tracks on which he once dominated - since the 2004 season.
As an added bonus, thanks to changes made to NASCAR's championship system in the offseason, Earnhardt is now all but guaranteed a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Jeff Gordon finished third, Brad Keselowski was fourth and Jimmie Johnson was fifth.
Under threatening skies, the race got off as scheduled with pole-sitter Austin Dillon leading the first lap, before Hamlin took over.
Hamlin, however, got some debris stuck on his front grille and was forced to pull out of line to lower his engine temperature. That allowed Kurt Busch to move into the lead.
Kyle Larson slapped the wall hard and brought out the race's caution on Lap 23. During a round of pit stops, Matt Kenseth spun on pit road after contact with Trevor Bayne and Danica Patrick was forced to pit in an awkward position after trying to avoid contact from Marcos Ambrose.
The race restarted on Lap 27 with Paul Menard in the lead, followed by Kurt Busch.
The engine on Martin Truex Jr.'s car expired bringing out a caution on Lap 32. Truex was forced to the garage and out of the race. During the caution, it began to rain and NASCAR displayed the red flag at 2:12 p.m. ET, after the completion of 38 laps.