Daytona 500 2012: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Won't Ride In The Back

Immediately after the chaos of the Bud Shootout subsided, several drivers declared they would race in the back for the Daytona 500.

Trying to navigate the pack for 500 miles, they said, seems too risky. It's a recipe for getting caught up in a crash too early, and it would be better to wait until the final laps to make a charge.

But Dale Earnhardt Jr. has no plans of hanging back in the field, he said Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

"I just don't spend a lot of time thinking about riding in the back," he said. "I don't waste a minute of the day doing that."

Earnhardt Jr. has gotten burned recently by hanging in the rear of the field for too long during restrictor-plate races. He and tandem drafting partner Jimmie Johnson tried it twice last season – in the summer Daytona race and fall Talladega race – but they mistimed their charge and couldn't get to the front before the race ended.

"I'm not good at riding in the back, because I've never made it back to the front at the right time," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Me and Jimmie tried to do that the last couple trips, and when it was time to go back to the front, we weren't fast enough or they were too far ahead or the track was too blocked. I don't think I've ever used that style and made it work for me."

Besides, Earnhardt Jr. said, it's a misconception that drivers make the decision to drop to the back prior to the race. The Hendrick Motorsports driver said it's often a choice made depending on how the race is developing.

"You're like, 'Man, these guys are probably going to wreck. I don't want to be right behind them, and I can't get around them because they're three- or four-wide or whatever,'" he said. "So you move back a couple hundred yards. I think it's poor judgment to think about it during the week, because you're not thinking about going and winning the race. You're thinking about going backward."

Anyway, it sounds as if Earnhardt Jr. fans may have something to cheer about during the race on Sunday.

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