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Junior in front from start

It was just another night of mundane Busch Series dominance for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt won his third consecutive Busch event of the year Friday night at Daytona International Speedway, starting from the pole and leading all 100 laps to win a Winn-Dixie 250 he almost apologetically admitted "looked real easy."

The 1998 and '99 series champion spent the entire race jockeying in front of a pack of five breakaway cars, then frustrated two feeble attempts by runner-up Michael Waltrip in the final laps. The win moved him to within two of his late father's record of five straight at the track.

Earnhardt's No. 8 Chevrolet averaged 153.715 mph and covered the distance in a little more than 90 minutes.

"We stayed up front all night and I didn't think that was possible," Earnhardt said. "I don't know if we've ever done that; it's pretty cool. Running second is no fun because it's so hard to pass the leader."

With technology and aerodynamics affording a massive advantage to the front-runner in a restrictor-plate event, Waltrip hoped to catch Earnhardt in the pits, but Earnhardt's Chance 2 crew used one two-tire stop and rode out three cautions to thwart that strategy.

Earnhardt had asked for four tires, thinking he would need another pit stop for gas, but was over-ruled.

"That'll get on your nerves, that restrictor-plate stuff," Waltrip said. "The only way I could have caught Junior was if he made a mistake, and he wasn't going to do that.

"It would have been interesting to see what we could have done if we'd gotten the lead."

The victory was another showcase for Chance 2, the developmental racing team Earnhardt operates with his stepmother, Teresa. The team has won three of six starts, all with Earnhardt behind the wheel.

"We had a real strong car," Earnhardt said. "Our crew, they're real young and energetic. They're going places."

What little drama there was surfaced in the last five laps, when Jamie McMurray, who ran fourth behind Ron Hornaday Jr. for most of the race, moved into third and held on for his best finish at Daytona. McMurray started 30th.

As expected, the top three finishers were Winston Cup regulars. Hornaday, who finished fourth, moved into third on the Busch points list.

Earnhardt, admitting a wire-to-wire race with little attacking of the leader could be boring for fans, said NASCAR might be wise to find ways to tinker with rules and technology to give cars a better chance to make runs.

Until then, he said, "(I'll) keep my mouth shut and keep my foot to the floor."

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