Two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows exactly what it takes to be successful on restrictor-plate tracks.
But as he makes his return to Monster Energy Cup Series competition following a lengthy recovery from a concussion, Earnhardt knows one thing’s for sure if he wants to win a third Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX).
He needs to race with no fear.
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“I know when I get in the car, I can’t have any concern or worry, or I’ll drive completely different,” Earnhardt said. “I know what result I can get by driving without fear and I know what kind of result I’ll get if I drive with even a sliver of apprehension. I just won’t be able to go out there and win the race.”
Earnhardt noted he’s raced with that ounce of fear before, so he knows what can happen if he lets that play a factor in his first race back.
“Once you second-guess yourself one time, it snowballs and it just continues throughout the rest of the race,” Earnhardt added. “To be able to win the Daytona 500, you’ve got to race with no fear.”
There’s also the unknown of how a potential wreck could affect Earnhardt.
“Should that happen and I come out of the other side of it feeling great, that will add a ton of confidence,” said Earnhardt. “I can’t sit here and say I know exactly how I’m going to act in those situations. When I go through that process, there’s a box or two to check that aren’t checked yet. I feel healthy and I feel comfortable in the car.”
Overall, Earnhardt feels Daytona is the best track for him to make his comeback.
“If it was a real challenging technical track, my nerves would be a little bit higher,” Earnhardt said. “Having so much success here brings the confidence level up a little bit.”