Daytona 500 Odds: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Will Drive as Clear-Cut Favorite

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
Gabe ZaldivarPop Culture Lead WriterFebruary 21, 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be firing up the engine headed into a race that will finally show off his ability as a world-class driver. 

The odds are out and there are some obvious inclusions near the top. According to Bovada.lv, Carl Edwards is 12/1, Jeff Gordon is 12/1 and Jimmie Johnson is 14/1. 

Earnhardt is in some fine company as he sits at 10/1 odds before the Daytona 500. He joins Kenny Harvick and Kyle Busch—two hot drivers that will certainly be in the mix late. 

There is reason to push Earnhardt ahead of those two by just a nose headed into the Great American Race. 

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, looks on after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2012 in Daytona Be
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Rules Change 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is forever frustrated. Junior can always find something to gripe about, but for once things are on the right side for him. 

He is in love with the advent of pack racing and the rule changes that will bring back classic racing. He let us into what he thinks will happen from here on out, and you can almost hear the exuberance in his voice. Via Yahoo! Sports:

You don't have to move around. You just hold your damn car where it needs to be and not drive around like an idiot. If you want to drive your car in a straight line and be sensible it is possible [you can]. There is no chaos out there. Yes, there are guys moving around, but it's not necessary. They are not doing it because they are hot or there are problems with their engine running hot or anything like that. They are just having a good time. Everybody is enjoying it.

It's a brand new day for NASCAR, and Junior is itching to make his mark on Daytona once again. He will do it in his way, something he has been restricted from doing for too long. 

We can expect a volatile pace with a myriad of lead changes during the 500. This will have a feel of a fan's race with near crashes and plenty of turmoil. but make no mistake, the drivers will be loving life as well. 

Control 

There is one thing that drivers can't get enough of, and that's control. Junior finally gets that and sounds off on how he feels after last week's run at Daytona. Via Fox Sports:

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. That is all I can ask for.

There is no doubting Junior's talent, or his amazing resolve. The guy wants to win and has been driving with a weight on his shoulders. 

The new rules mean he can finally take control of the race as he sees fit. That means the field is in for a world of hurt at the Daytona 500. 

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