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Daytona Beach, Fla. — Her name is Amelia, and boy, can she really fly.

She’ll be forever treasured by Dale Earnhardt Jr., even though he wants nothing more than to give her away Sunday.

Amelia Earhart is the nickname of the sleek and superfast Chevrolet Earnhardt drove to three victories last season.

The car never finished lower than third in five races, and Earnhardt couldn’t find a reason to keep her out of Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500.

The decision was easy.

Instead of building a new car specifically for the “The Great American Race” — what most teams do every offseason — Earnhardt opted to give Amelia another shot at getting to victory lane. She delivered Thursday night when Earnhardt won a 150-mile qualifying race to up her record to four victories in six starts over the last 13 months.

“The car really does everything I ask it to do,” Earnhardt said after his win. “When you have a car that you know can do the things that this car can do, you’re willing to take those gambles and risks to pull out and pass. It’s just a fun car to drive. Really special car.”

When Rick Hendrick leaned into the window after Earnhardt’s latest victory, the driver urged his team owner to keep track of Amelia and consider putting her on display in his museum.

For now, he’s fine if he says goodbye to her Sunday. Daytona International Speedway displays the winning car for a year, and teams gladly exchange them for the trophy. Earnhardt, a two-time 500 winner, decided chassis No. 88-872 needed a name when crew chief Greg Ives declined to retire the car.

“The fact that we’re going to keep running it, I said, ‘We gotta name it,’ and we were thinking of a woman who has accomplished something that was an awesome person that was something we could be proud of,” Earnhardt said. “Amelia Earhart was the first thing that came to my mind.

“She sort of fits that mold of the courage and determination that you need as a racecar driver. She must have had that and more to be able to do the things she did in her lifetime.”

So it’s the car that gives Earnhardt the confidence to make the moves he did Thursday night while winning for the 17th time at Daytona International Speedway. The victory came on the 15th anniversary of his father’s death.

Although he daydreamed about winning to honor his father, he really just didn’t want to embarrass himself with a poor showing.

There was no chance of that happening as he dominated by leading 43 of the 60 laps and passing Denny Hamlin, winner of last week’s exhibition race, with ease to claim the victory.

Earnhardt dismissed any special power got him past Hamlin with six laps remaining. Hamlin, who seemingly has one of the few cars that can contend with Amelia, said the pass didn’t surprise him at all.

“I’ve seen those moves a lot because I watch him a lot. You always are watching guys that are really successful at this kind of racing,” Hamlin said. “I kind of knew what was going on, but when he’s coming at such a fast pace from behind, you have to anticipate. “It’s almost like a free kick in soccer. It’s like, ‘OK, I committed to the right side and (he) kicked to the left.’ ”

New penalties unveiled

NASCAR officials have beefed up their punishment system and will define specific behavioral offenses with predetermined penalties. The new system will serve as a personal conduct code for members in all three national NASCAR series.

Among the sanctions, NASCAR will punish a competitor who takes premeditated action against a driver in the Chase.

The rulebook can serve punishments for infractions ranging from domestic abuse to critical comments directed toward the series.

Race facts

Track: Daytona International Speedway (tri-oval, 2.5 miles), Daytona Beach, Fla.

Schedule: Today, practice (FS1, noon-2 p.m.); Sunday, race, 1 p.m. (Fox, noon-5 p.m.)

Distance: 500 miles (200 laps)

2015 winner: Joey Logano

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