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Dale Earnhardt Jr. claims rain-delayed Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the rain-delayed Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway, which ended at 2:41 a.m. Monday with a horrific last-lap accident that sent Austin Dillon sailing into the fence.

The outcome wasn't in doubt as Earnhardt dominated the entire race. But as the pack of cars chased him on a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, contact in traffic sent Dillon's car sailing upside down into the fence.

The car tore down a section of fencing and Dillon sailed back onto the track. His mangled car landed on its roof and crew members from several teams raced to check on Dillon.

The crew members quickly waved to alert that Dillon was fine, and the grandson of team owner Richard Childress 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 and has been close with the Earnhardt family his entire life. Dillon was present for many of the late Dale Earnhardt's 34 wins at Daytona.

"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."

Dillon was seen and released in Daytona's infield care center and said he had a bruised forearm and tailbone.

The accident was similar to a 2013 crash in the Xfinity Series when Kyle Larson's car sailed into the fence, sending debris into the stands that injured 28 fans. Larson's car was destroyed as it ricocheted back onto the track.

Jimmie Johnson, who finished second to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Earnhardt, said Dillon's wreck was one of the worst he's ever seen.

"I'm shocked that Austin Dillon is even alive," said Johnson. "I expected the worst when I came back around."

The accident overshadowed Earnhardt's second win of the season -- his first was in May at Talladega -- and his first in this race since 2001. It was his fourth Sprint Cup Series win at Daytona.

The wreck was also the main focus at the end of a day that began early Sunday but quickly fell off schedule because of weather.

The race began at 11:42 p.m., a delay of 3 hours, 34 minutes for rain. Drivers spent the time doing an array of different activities: Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano went into the stands to thank fans for sticking around, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. used social media to prove he can do a headstand.

They also stopped by the NBC studio to help the network fill air time in its first race broadcasting NASCAR since 2006.

When the race finally began, and the field circled the track waiting for the green flag, reigning NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick made note of the unusual start time by wishing his crew a good evening before correcting himself to morning.

It then took just three laps for the action to begin as David Gilliland sliced across the front of Clint Bowyer to trigger a nine-car accident that collected Logano and Danica Patrick, among others.

Tony Stewart, winner of the 2005 race that ended at 1:42 a.m., sliced his way through the carnage then grumbled on his radio about early-race aggressiveness.

"Somebody please remind me how much Lap 2 pays again?" he smarted.