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Dale Earnhardt Jr: Potentially Chaotic Daytona 500 Plays to Earnhardt's Strength

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 Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IDecember 13, 2016

Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won in 129 consecutive races, but NASCAR's latest changes to the Daytona 500 give him a great shot at winning "The Great American Race" again.

For whatever reason, Earnhardt has never liked tandem racing, which was prevalent last year. Pack racing, where you rely more on yourself, has always suited him better, as we saw in the 2004 Daytona 500.

Earnhardt said on Wednesday, via the Washington Post:

"I think you just have to have good instinct about drafting and what is happening around you...You have to be really selfish and always want to help yourself and always do what is going to help you, which is really not my personality, but for whatever reason I’m pretty good at it. Hopefully it will work out for us.”

NASCAR's latest rules bring the Daytona 500 back to the traditional pack racing. In Saturday's Budweiser Shootout exhibition, there were three multicar wrecks on a wild 54 laps. Normally, that would make drivers uneasy heading into Sunday's Daytona 500. For Earnhardt, it's a dream come true.

Earnhardt added:

“I do feel like I have a better shot at winning in this current style of racing. I do feel more confident than I did coming down here and tandem drafting. I never felt really great about that. It is a completely different style of racing and it’s not what I enjoyed."

Earnhardt has had a rough stretch. Since the 2004 Daytona 500, he's been virtually invisible on the track.

But there's nothing like feeling at home, and Earnhardt feels at home when cars are crashing all around him and he's maneuvering himself through the wreckage.

For Earnhardt, chaos is welcome. In the inevitable chaos on Sunday, don't be surprised if he makes a run at victory.

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