Jeff Gordon: 2016 Daytona 500 is Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s to lose

Jeff Gordon speaks during the recent Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom.

In an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com, Jeff Gordon said the Daytona 500 is Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s to lose.

Gordon, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and former teammate of Earnhardt’s at Hendrick Motorsports, said he expects the restrictor-plate-track dominance of the No. 88 Chevrolet to continue this year.

"I think the focus and the storyline has got to be on Dale Earnhardt Jr.," Gordon told FOXSports.com.

Last year, Earnhardt finished third in the Daytona 500, won the first plate race at Talladega Superspeedway and the second one at Daytona, then capped it off with a second place in the fall Talladega race. That’s an average finish of 1.75 at the two tracks.

"Hendrick dominated the restrictor-plate races in 2015," said Gordon, who this year will be in the FOX television booth with Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip for the first half of the NASCAR season.

"With very few changes, I would expect for their dominance or their strength to still be there," said Gordon. "And, of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and restrictor-plate racing go hand-in-hand. If you look at how he’s raced, he’s been aggressive, he’s worked really hard to maintain track position. He’s had a fast race car, which helps."

Gordon’s conclusion on Earnhardt’s chances in the Daytona 500:  "I think it’s his to lose, really."