Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking forward to the next 10 days in Daytona Beach.
Well, kind of.
While Earnhardt Jr. still enjoys racing at Daytona International Speedway and in the Daytona 500, NASCAR's most popular driver remains frustrated at the lack of control he has on restrictor-plate tracks.
Earnhardt Jr. was once one of the most feared drivers at Daytona and Talladega, a threat to win any plate race. But thanks to repaves and the ensuing two-car tandems, his strength (pack racing) has been completely taken away.
It's no wonder, then, that Earnhardt Jr. repeated his belief that the Daytona 500 is a "lottery."
"Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here," he 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."
Earnhardt Jr. has gone winless since 2008, so he's obviously itching to return to Victory Lane. And he doesn't feel Daytona gives him the best chance of doing so.
"I look forward to going to tracks where I'm driving the car, where I can make a difference," he said. "I don't know what is going to happen in the Daytona 500; I don't even have a clue what the race is going to be like now, and that's frustrating, but that's just the way it is."
NASCAR has tried to make changes to the so-called "tandem drafting" that developed when drivers figured out they could push each other faster than the big pack could go.
It remains to be seen how those changes worked -- we'll get our first indication in Friday's Budweiser Shootout practice session -- but Earnhardt Jr. is cautiously optimistic.
"To NASCAR's credit, they've been working really hard trying to put it back into the driver's hands and give the drivers control of their destiny instead of pairing up and having to take care of each other out there on the racetrack all the time," he said. "You want to be stubborn and looking out for yourself only, so they are trying to go in that direction."