Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs 'no fear� to win third Daytona 500

Two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows exactly what it takes to be successful on restrictor-plate tracks.

But as he makes his return to Monster Energy Cup Series competition following a lengthy recovery from a concussion, Earnhardt knows one thing's for sure if he wants to win a third Daytona 500 (Feb. 26, 2 p.m. ET on FOX).

He needs to race with no fear.

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"I know when I get in the car, I can't have any concern or worry, or I'll drive completely different," Earnhardt said. "I know what result I can get by driving without fear and I know what kind of result I'll get if I drive with even a sliver of apprehension. I just won't be able to go out there and win the race."

Earnhardt noted he's raced with that ounce of fear before, so he knows what can happen if he lets that play a factor in his first race back.

"Once you second-guess yourself one time, it snowballs and it just continues throughout the rest of the race," Earnhardt added. "To be able to win the qualifying race and win the Daytona 500, you've got to race with no fear."

There's also the unknown of how a potential wreck could affect Earnhardt.

"Should that happen and I come out of the other side of it feeling great, that will add a ton of confidence," said Earnhardt. "I can't sit here and say I know exactly how I'm going to act in those situations. When I go through that process, there's a box or two to check that aren't checked yet. I feel healthy and I feel comfortable in the car."

After taking laps in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet during the first practice session Saturday afternoon, no real concerns stood out for Earnhardt prior to Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session (3 p.m. ET, FOX).

"I felt good physically," Earnhardt said. "The day went really smooth as far as the guys working and the car working. The car is comfortable."

"We've had some balance issues that I'm concerned about, but that's nothing new," he added. "As far as my health goes, I have to go out there and race with full confidence and no fear to be able to win."

The four-hour session also allowed Earnhardt plenty of time to get acclimated with the car on the high banks of Daytona.

"The way they did the practices is a lot better," Earnhardt said. "When we used to have the practices split, man, you hustled like hell to get as many runs as you could in that hour. At the end of each session, you were pushing hard to get back out there for another run. It was a much more comfortable pace for the guys to be working in."

Overall, Earnhardt feels Daytona is the best track for him to make his comeback.

"If it was a real challenging technical track, my nerves would be a little bit higher," Earnhardt said. "Having so much success here brings the confidence level up a little bit."