Dale Earnhardt Jr. last won the NASCAR Daytona 500 in 2004, ten years ago, but he has finished 2nd three of the last four years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win the Daytona 500 this year.
Since NASCAR changed to the Car of Tomorrow, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been able to get the magic back and win at Daytona. That isn’t to say he has not raced well. Any driver in the garage would take his record. He just hasn’t won.
Watching the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duels, racing with the new cars resembles more the racing of old when Dale Jr. last won then the past five years when he was just a car to contend with.
“You used to use a side-draft as an offensive move, where you would get up on the guy’s quarter panel and stall him out and it would give you a boost and you’d pull away like jumping a boat wake and get out away from him so he could not do the same thing to you and you would make a pass. That was how we used to use that with success” Earnhardt Jr. added, “But now, there’s an extreme stall when you side-draft a guy and it really kills his car. But before you can get out and get away from him, it starts to kill your car and you sort of sit there and just fight on each other’s quarter panels until somebody tucks-in behind one of you and pushes you through.”
What it really looks like now is that a driver can use what is going on around him to his advantage. They don’t have to have a driver tucked directly behind their car to get to the front. This is much the way it was when Dale Earnhardt Jr. could seemingly move to the front and pass no matter who was behind him or what lane he was in. For this reason alone Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win the Daytona 500.
In the first Budweiser Duel Earnhardt Jr. appeared to try both the high line and the low line learning what he could about this new car and the draft. Though he didn’t time it right and finished fourth, you could tell he had a plan.
Earnhardt Jr. said, “Real happy with the way my car drove. Sat there all the way until the end to make a move and you know that is what we are doing. We are all waiting to make a move and I went to make a move and nobody got on the elevator with me.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start the Daytona 500 from the ninth position but don’t expect that to last very long.
If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500 it will be broadcast live on Fox starting at 1 PM ET.
Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing