Earnhardt Consistency Continues, Pays Off

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/TheDarkKnightRises/National Guard/ Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gets service in the No. 88 pit at Indianapolis. Earnhardt finished fourth and goes to Pocono on top the points standings for the first time since 2004. (Getty Images)

Indianapolis—Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leaves Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the Sprint Cup points leader after a fourth place finish in Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard.

The top-five finish was a first and career best at the storied track topping a sixth place finish in 2006.

“We were really excited about our car the first run,” said Earnhardt. “Happy with how it was driving.”

“Don’t know how fast the leaders were, but I thought the car had excellent speed and drive-ability,” Earnhardt added. “We messed with the balance a little bit throughout the race.”

Earnhardt said the car wasn’t perfect at the end of the race, but track position was what mattered and they had it. Earnhardt was happy to get the top-five finish with a car that was between a fourth and eighth place car.

The finish ties Jeff Gordon for NASCAR’s all-time consecutive-finishes-on-lead-lap record (21). That accomplishment is a feather in the cap of the No. 88 team who has consistently competed for not only top-fives and top-10 finishes—but wins.

“I’m proud of that because it says a lot about our body of work,” said Earnhardt. “All season of long we’ve been working hard and finishing well.”

“That is symbolic of how well we’ve done,” Earnhardt added. “I’m proud of that.”

Earnhardt says that the position the team has been in all season has been positive and the need and desire to win more races is there—especially if they want to win the championship.

“I imagine we can win a couple races in Chase,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know if finishing fourth or fifth is going to do it. We’ll just have to see.”

“We’d like to step it up just a little bit more,” added Earnhardt. “I would like to win here, but I’m going to have to wait until next year.”

Earnhardt’s point lead (14 over Matt Kenseth) is the first time the most popular driver has been on top the Sprint Cup Standings since 2004.