Conspiracy talk, launch! Dale Jr. wins the Bud Shootout pole

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — As you know if you’ve spent even a nanosecond in range of NASCAR news, this year marks the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death here on the final lap of the Daytona 500. So it’s only fitting that his son should have the honor of leading the field in the first event of the 2011 season. Perhaps a little too fitting, if you get our drift…

No, relax, there’s no conspiracy. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in an impossible position in NASCAR. He’ll never equal his father’s record of 7 Cup championships. He’ll never be the presence in NASCAR that his father was. And yet, Senior is so revered that when Junior actually does win something, there are murmurs that the victory was fixed or rigged, a storyline too good to be true. That’s beyond unfortunate, but it’s the way it is.

Thing is, Junior has a very, very good chance of running well at Speedweeks. His car was one of the fastest on the track during practice Friday afternoon, and he’s historically run well at this track, with two Cup wins and six Nationwide wins in 22 and 19 races, respectively. He won last year in the July Nationwide race, and was within a bumper of winning the Daytona 500. So it’s not out of the question that he could run extraordinarily well in a week dedicated to his father’s memory.

Still, he’ll have to adjust in-race, and his ability to do so is the big question mark. But if you’re going to get your season started right, best to begin at the beginning, yes?

Your complete Bud Shootout field follows:

Pole: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Tony Stewart
3. Carl Edwards
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Bobby Labonte
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Ryan Newman
9. Derrike Cope
10. Michael Waltrip
11. Greg Biffle
12. Jeff Gordon
13. Juan Pablo Montoya
14. Jamie McMurray
15. Jeff Burton
16. Kevin Conway
17. Kurt Busch
18. Kevin Harvick
19. Matt Kenseth
20. Mark Martin
21. Kyle Busch
22. Joey Logano
23. Jimmie Johnson
24. Regan Smith

The 75-lap race begins Saturday night at 8:30 ET on Fox. We’ll be chatting away, so join us, won’t you?

Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee and The Marbles on Facebook for constant updates from Daytona’s Speedweeks. 

Conspiracy talk, launch! Dale Jr. wins the Bud Shootout pole

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