Seventeen years after Dale Earnhardt’s death, his iconic number is in victory lane Twitter/@NASCARONFOX

There are moments in NASCAR history when time seems to stop and you realize that magic is happening before your very eyes. Moments where you feel like things are occurring exactly the way they are supposed to be. Moments when you feel like someone so much bigger than all of us is in charge.

And that moment just happened at the Daytona 500.

In a closing lap of the Feb. 18 race that had all the drama we would expect, Austin Dillon took the No. 3 car across the finish lane first, 17 years to the day from when Dale Earnhardt could not, losing his life in turn four of the Daytona 500 in a car bearing the same number.

And if that doesn’t give you the chills, nothing will.

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In an interview after the race, Austin spoke about a penny that he was given by a new fan, a penny that made its way onto the dashboard of his winning car today. And as recently reported by Rare Country, Dale Sr. also won the 1998 Daytona 500 with a penny given to him by a fan glued onto his dashboard.

Also, 20 years ago this week, Dale took his No. 3 car into victory lane for his one and only Daytona 500 victory in 1998. Who was standing with him in victory lane that day?

None other than a pint-sized Austin Dillon!

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You see, Austin’s grandfather is Richard Childress, who served as a crew chief for Dale on that fateful day. So obviously, an 8-year-old Austin, with stars in his eyes, was in victory lane taking a pic with “The Intimidator.”


OK, chills yet?

Of course, while Dale Sr. wasn’t there waiting for Austin to give him a bear hug at Daytona, chances are he will be getting one soon enough from his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who sent out congratulations via Twitter shortly after the race.

And this is exactly why we love NASCAR. But we want to hear what you think — was the all-American race all you hoped it would be this year? Did the right man win? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Tricia Despres is a senior correspondent for Rare Country, based out of Chicago. Join the conversation on Twitter at @RareCountry. We would love to see y’all there.
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