DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. —
It was the second Daytona 500 victory for perhaps NASCAR's most popular driver; his first came a decade ago.
"I cannot believe this!" Earnhardt, 39, exclaimed over his car radio.
Hamlin was second, Gordon -- Earnhardt's teammate at
It was Earnhardt's first Sprint Cup Series win since mid-2012 at Michigan -- a winless spell of 55 races.
The victory also almost assured that Earnhardt would earn a berth in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff in the fall, under new rules implemented this season that put a greater emphasis on wins to reach the playoff.
Earnhardt kept his No. 88 Chevrolet in the lead after a restart with only two laps left in the 200-lap race at
The restart was set up by a multi-car crash involving
There were two other major crashes earlier in the race.
With 54 laps left, a dozen cars were damaged as the field came out of Turn 4. The drivers involved included polesitter
There was another pileup 16 laps later in the same turn when Dillon, who had returned to the race, touched the Chevrolet of Kyle Larson. That wreck also collected