Daytona 500 Odds: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Will Steal Show

Gabe ZaldivarPop Culture Lead WriterFebruary 20, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The biggest names in NASCAR are currently itching to make a mad dash for the checkered flag at Daytona, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one that will lead the pack. 

We are fresh off an exciting weekend that included the Budweiser Shootout and a look at what racing should look like with new rules on restrictor plate racing. While the weekend was more for the fans than anything, it showed that racing would be different at Daytona and that Earnhardt Jr. would be in the thick of it. 

The odds will continue to shuffle all week, but an initial look at betting lines is as follows. According to

Jimmie Johnson +1000
Dale Earnhardt Jr. +1000
Kyle Busch  +1200
Jeff Gordon  +1200
Carl Edwards +1200

It will take a while for the actual odds to be tallied and released, but for now, we can use this as a measure of who will be favored heavily headed into the Great American Race. 

There is a reason that the oft-frustrated Earnhardt gets the nod as a favorite early. and that's from his exuberance and ability to run this type of race with a renewed manner of restrictor plate driving. 

Earnhardt Jr. explained exactly what he feels about the old style and the new changes that should have him chomping at the bit all week long. Via SportingNews:

We have really made a lot of great improvements and I have more of my destiny in my hands in this type of racing. I was feeling really good and really happy with the way things were going.

I felt like I was doing a good job. I felt like I had control of my race and had potential to win the race if I made all the right moves. … At least I know what to expect. I feel like I have got a better chance with this style than I did last year for damn sure.

It wasn't just the ability to call his own shots, Earnhardt Jr. was running a great weekend pace-wise. He finished third in Daytona 500 qualifying, notching the third-fastest time behind Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. He is running fast and playing his kind of game.

This weekend may be designed for his talents, but it also does wonders for fans in what should be a manic race with a flurry of lead changes. In the mix will be Earnhardt Jr., whose frustration will be replaced with an aggressive demeanor that will almost seem like an odd calm, and that has everything to do with him running his kind of race.