Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Popular NASCAR Star Looking For Fresh Start In 2011

Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains one of NASCAR's most popular drivers despite his struggles in recent years, and he heads into 2011 looking to start with a clean slate and get back into NASCAR's elite.

Earnhardt Jr. has a new crew chief heading into the season and is looking for a fresh start after missing the Chase for the Championship, NASCAR's postseason, in three of the last four years. His 2010 was particularly ugly, as he won no races and finished in the top five just three times. He finished 21st overall in the NASCAR standings a year ago, running a hugely disappointing 36 race schedule.

Changes were afoot for 2011 for Earnhardt Jr., and his year starts off at a race track that holds all too much special meaning for the 36 year old driver. February 18 will mark the 10 year anniversary of the tragic 2001 Daytona 500 that saw Earnhardt Jr.'s father, Dale, killed in a last-lap crash.

It's a tragic event that remains a sore spot all across the racing world, and Earnhardt Jr. will come front and center with the extreme personal tragedy. The 2011 Daytona 500 takes place a few days after the anniversary and will surely be a topic of discussion leading up to the big race next Sunday.

That just adds to the many issues Earnhardt Jr. will have to face come race day next Sunday. He's looking to resurrect a career that has ground to a halt after showing such promise earlier on.

It will be under the guidance of a new crew chief, Steve Letarte, and Earnhardt Jr. will have a lot to prove once the NASCAR season officially gets started with the historic running of the Daytona 500 next Sunday.

It's a make or break season for Junior, and he's hoping a fresh start will get things moving in the right direction.

For more on Earnhardt Jr.'s chances in 2011, check out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon: 10 Predictions for Their Sprint Cup Crew Swap.

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