DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. left Daytona frustrated and furious last July.
One of his favorite tracks, the place forever linked to his family name, had become a bore.
Junior disliked every aspect of the newfangled tandem racing at NASCAR's superspeedways: the blind pushing, the feeling of not being in total control and the need for constant communication.
He called it a ``foolish freakin' race'' following his 19th-place finish.
His outlook has changed considerably since. Between some NASCAR-mandated changes, results during testing and 54 wild laps in the exhibition Budweiser Shootout, Earnhardt's concerns have been alleviated.
Now, he might even be considered a front-runner heading into Thursday's qualifying race and Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500.

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