Earnhardt Jr. Charges To Second

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. is doing his best to put last year's disappointing season behind him.

Earnhardt Jr. charged from 10th to second on the final green-white-checkered finish attempt of the day to score a runner-up run behind Jamie McMurray in Sunday's Daytona 500.

"Tonight I just let it all hang out," Earnhardt Jr. said. "If there was a hole in the middle, I went there. Wherever it was. I just didn't really like being on the bottom. That seemed to be kind of hard to do.

"But a lot of luck, too. I'm not complaining up here about running second. I'm pretty happy about it."

After starting outside the front row in Sunday's 52nd running of "The Great American Race," Earnhardt ran an average running position of 14.3 during the 208 laps while the team was dealing with some handling issues before night descended on the track.

"I am just disappointed to come that close and not win it but, I'll tell you," Earnhardt said. "We did the right thing by coming down and getting two tires. The AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet was pretty good all day. Just working on some handling issues. I don't know if got them fixed or not. When it gets cold, everybody's car handles good."

Team owner Rick Hendrick vowed in the off-season to put more resources toward getting Earnhardt and the No. 88 team on par with his other drivers, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, who finished first through third in the 2009 point standings.

That has included aligning the team with Martin's No. 5 squad as well as bringing back crew chief Lance McGrew, who took over the crew chief duties early last season.

"I want to thank my team for working really hard," Earnhardt said. "The engine shop did an awesome job. The car worked really good."

While coming up just short of getting another Daytona 500 victory, Earnhardt congratulated McMurray on his first win in the race.

"I'm happy for Jamie and his crew chief (Kevin Manion) Bono who helped me when I was younger."

Earnhardt's finish was his best at Daytona in five starts with Hendrick. His only other top-10s came in his first season with the team, in 2008, when he finished ninth and eighth, respectively.

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