Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the rain-delayed Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway, which ended at 2:41 a.m. Eastern time with a horrific last-lap accident.
The outcome wasn’t in doubt as Earnhardt dominated the race. But as the pack of cars chased him on a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, contact in traffic sent Austin Dillon’s car flying upside down into the retaining fence above the side wall of the track
The car tore down a section of fencing and Dillon’s car sailed back onto the track. His mangled car landed on its roof and Casey Mears’ crew members raced to Dillon to pull him from the wreckage.
The crew members quickly waived to alert that Dillon was fine, and the driver ultimately climbed from the car and raised his arms in the air.
A stunned Earnhardt seemed speechless as he crossed the finish line on his team radio.
“Oh my God. That looked awful,” Earnhardt yelled into his radio. He followed with a string of expletives as he tried to comprehend the frightening accident.
Crew chief Greg Ives immediately radioed his team to not pull Dillon from the car.
“Whoever is in that window, if he’s OK, do not touch him. Tell him to stay in there,” Ives said.
Earnhardt continued to inquire about Dillon, who earned his first career win at Daytona in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race.
“Is everybody alright? Is everybody in the grandstands OK?” Earnhardt asked.
It appeared a handful of fans in the stands were being treated for minor injuries sustained from debris from the car that flew into the seats.
In Victory Lane, Earnhardt still seemed a bit shaken.
“That was terrifying to watch,” he said. “You know a wreck like that has such high potential for someone to get injured. You just wonder about everyone else in the grandstands. It was touch and go there for several moments. I’m more thankful that everyone seems OK.”