(Earnhardt Jr. is unsure about what to expect in this year's running of the Daytona 500 - Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes his improved performance of 2011 will lead to even better things this coming season, beginning with the Daytona 500.
After making the Chase for the first time in three seasons and finishing seventh in the final Sprint Cup Series point standings, Earnhardt carries a lot of confidence into teh new campaign - his second with crew chief Steve Letarte calling the shots.
“I feel pretty good," Earnhardt said. "I’m frustrated that we didn’t win last year, we came close. I’m ready to get back to that. I’m ready to get chances again. I want to win a race pretty bad but I can’t do that without racing and we haven’t been doing any so it’s been a little frustrating."
Although he has always enjoyed racing at Daytona and showed restrictor plate racing prowess during his Sprint Cup career, Earnhardt is somewhat cautious about his chances in this year's Speedweeks because of the new two car drafting style of competition.
"Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here," Earnhardt said. "This is going to be a fun experience but I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and the rest of the tracks to start really getting control of my destiny and trying to make some things happen for me and win some races.”
There was a time when Earnhardt was considered an automatic contender to win at Daytona and Talladega but the recent changes in plate racing has made things much different today. But Earnhardt says he's fine with the evolution and like everyone else, will deal with the new style of racing.
“That’s just the way it is," he said. "We did a lot of work this off season. To NASCAR’s credit they’ve been working really hard trying to put it back into the driver’s hands and give the driver’s control of their destiny instead of pairing up and having to take care of each other out there on the race track all the time. You want to be stubborn and looking out for yourself only, that’s how you want to do it so they are trying to go in that direction.
"I give them a lot of credit for trying really hard and hopefully we made a lot of good changes so we will see. Everybody is really gotta be anticipated, it’s got to be exciting for everybody, fans, media anticipate what’s going to happen tomorrow and the Shootout Saturday night. There should be a lot of people glued to the action.”
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