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So just what are the odds on Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning this Daytona 500....on the 10th anniversary?

  The next Daytona 500 winner? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   For those who believe in Fate, or Destiny, look ahead to this season's Daytona 500 and consider Dale Earnhardt Jr.
   It was exactly 10 years ago that his legendary father died here, on the last lap of NASCAR's biggest race.
   That was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s second season on the stock car tour. And on that final, fateful lap Dale Jr. was battling teammate Michael Waltrip – both running cars owned by Earnhardt himself – for the win.

   Waltrip edged Junior at the line...while The Big E, who had  been watching both from close behind in those final miles, was suddenly caught up in a fourth turn crash that took his life.
   In the 10 years since, Dale Jr. has become a star in his own right, the sport's most popular driver, if not the most successful. For several years Dale Jr. almost seemed to own Daytona.
  But Junior's last great season on the Cup tour was way back in 2004. And the past few years his career has slumped badly.
  The last two have been particularly painful.
  Car owner Rick Hendrick has vowed several times to make Earnhardt a winner again, and Hendrick has shuffled the deck several times. For this season Hendrick has given Earnhardt the Steve Letarte-led team that Jeff Gordon has raced with the past few years. And that puts Earnhardt right in the same Charlotte shop with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus.
  It's clear now that Earnhardt has no more excuses for not winning races. Everything that Jimmie Johnson gets, Earnhardt too can get, every bit of knowledge, every bit of wizardry.
  That's pressure.
  And Earnhardt, now 35, realizes this is his make-or-break season.
  Earnhardt one year ago took good advantage of NASCAR's new triple Green-White-Checkereds to nearly pull off victory in the 500.
  But Earnhardt here the past few years has been on-and-off. His lone Daytona 500 victory was seven years ago.
  However, this is the 10th anniversary....this sport is fighting through a two-year slump...and an Earnhardt victory would be a glorious one, certainly.
  Still, reading Dale Jr.'s face here Thursday, during the opening round of Daytona 500 testing for the Feb. 20th race, it would be hard to see that much optimism.
  So Letarte's biggest job right now might be to boost Earnhardt's confidence.
  Earnhardt concedes 2010 wasn't a great season:
  "I'm sure a lot of people expect nothing more than we did last year," Earnhardt said, looking ahead.  "And last year we were kind of under the radar...which was kind of fun -- A lot less garbage to deal with when you're not in the radar.
    "When you're running good, you can put up with about anything. But it's not fun being on the radar when you're running like crap.
    "Last year we sort of fell off the radar altogether.
   "I don't know what the reasons were for me and Lance (McGrew, then his crew chief) and that group not working out. I really enjoyed Lance. And I think we're still great friends. I think he has a lot of talent; but it just didn't work, for whatever reason."
    Now with Letarte? "I feel pretty confident about it, and I'm looking forward to the season.  We'll just see how it goes."
    If anything, Earnhardt at least says he doesn't plan to throw in the towel any time soon.
    "I want to be in racing for a very long time," he says. "And I know I can drive good enough to run well.
    "I'll stick around until I get it right.  It's just eventually going to have to happen."
   At the moment, though, Earnhardt is still trying to find his place in the new team structure: "Our team, it's a new deal, and I was joking with somebody in the truck earlier -- I was sitting up in the lounge, and they asked me if that was going to be my seat. I told them I'm not exactly sure where my seat is yet; it's sort of floating around. 
    "That's the way I feel about my team: everybody is still learning. I'm still learning who does what, what their personalities are.
    "It's been fun getting to know Steve more.  He's got a great personality, a lot of energy. Hopefully I can depend on that energy in certain times through certain races -- when you need somebody to gear you up, and let you see things a little differently. Maybe he can keep me on my toes, be a cheerleader...
    "They seem focused and ready to go."
     Bottom line for Earnhardt: "I'm really sick of how we've run the last several years, and ready to see something different. Ready to get to the track and see different results."
    And Earnhardt isn't alone in that.

Junior will need a restrictor

Junior will need a restrictor plate bigger than the one he had for the 400 in 2001 if he's going to win again. The one used in that race allowed him to pass 6 cars with no assistance at the end. More than fishy. The only thing I regret about that race was not betting a few paychecks worth on who was going to win.

Does he finally have a crew chief that he's satisfied with, or is it going to take Hendrick giving him Chad Knaus to finally prove to everyone that it's not the crew chief, the team, or the equipment that is the problem.

The odds are just about the same

As they were for the #3, Blue and Yellow, Wrangler Car winning in Daytona last June.

I'm sure that every team owner and driver will be told how good it will be for the sport if Dale Jr. wins the 500 on the 10th anniverary of his fathers death.

TO the top to names on the

TO the top to names on the win list for Daytona events are Earnhardt and Earnhardt and JR has a history of digging down and winning the emotional races and no one is better at restrictor plate races then JR. I think the odds are good that he wins it.

Also for the people who say NASCAR fixed the races for him to win, did they also fix the 4 Talledegas that he won in a row? Come on, give the guy his do -- if he can do nothing else in racing he knows how to work the draft and get things done on a plate track.


I think it is about time to let Dale Earnhardt Sr rest in peace. Does anyone think about Jr.and the constant reminder of his father's death. Now it's the 10th anniversay of his death.How many times does Junior have to relive that fateful day. Junior probably has his own demons and he does not need to be reminded at every turn.

An Earnhardt Fan Forever.

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I completely agree, Dale Jr is his own man and does not need the constant reminder from the press about how he lost his one and only father. I am sure he is reminded of it everyday and more so when he is at or thinks of Daytona. Dale Junior has the talent and we need to let him fight his demons. Would we like it if we were constantly hounded daily about how we did not live up to their standards. The man lost his father, leave him be on that note. Please.

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