Everyone knows I was pretty hard on Dale Earnhardt Jr. the past couple of years, saying he lacked focus and was more worried about his interests outside NASCAR than actually driving his race car.

It wasn’t meant to be mean-spirited. It was merely an observation, and his stats and aloof demeanor proved as much.

However, the Dale Jr. who showed up at Daytona Speedweeks in February was an entirely different person and driver.