Dale Jr.’s time again?

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 14:  (L-R) Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, talks to Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Man of Steel Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, MI – JUNE 14: (L-R) Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, talks to Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Man of Steel Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. last visited Victory Lane a year ago here and owner Rick Hendrick said he thought his driver looked even better heading into this weekend’s race than he did in 2012, when he ended a 143-race dry spell.

Earnhardt wasn’t sure.

“It’s easier to see the truth from his position on the other side of the fence. It’s more difficult to see growth and improvement when you’re part of the team,” he said. “You don’t really notice when things get a little bit better or a little bit worse.

“We started the year off so good and I felt like we were starting the season better and were a better team but we came back to reality and had some rough weeks. We ran good this past weekend and I feel good about this weekend.”

Earnhardt began the season with five straight top-seven finishes but only has cracked the top 10 four times since. He was third last weekend at Pocono and will start Sunday’s race fourth in the season standings.

His No. 88 Chevy sported a new paint scheme Friday, combining the National Guard and “Man of Steel,” director Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman story that debuted in theaters this week.

“The car looks great,” he said. “It’s not difficult to come up with a cool paint scheme when you’re working with Superman. Hopefully it’s as fast as it looks good.”

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