Earnhardt Enjoys Solid Day in Fontana

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is currently third in the series point standings. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home with a third-place finish in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 and moved up to third in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver used a mistake-free afternoon in the rain-shortened race to move up three spots in the series standings with five races in the book.

“We had a really good car,” Earnhardt said of the No. 88 Chevrolet. “The car was really quick in practice at the end of the day yesterday. We carried the same car into the race. I was real happy about that. We started off moving forward. Had some really good pit strategies, pitting a little bit earlier than most guys.”

Earnhardt was unsure why other drivers like Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson came down pit road when caution flew for rain on Lap 124. Staying out with the impending rainy weather was in Earnhardt’s mind the right call.

“I was surprised that everyone didn't stay out,” he said. “I was pretty certain by watching the weather and studying the weather all night long and all day today that once it began to rain, it wasn't going to stop. I was surprised that some guys came down pit road and gave up track position.”

Although Earnhardt didn’t qualify as well as the team would have liked, he felt he had a fast car most of the weekend. That was apparent when he drove his way toward the front of the field and that speed coupled with a mistake-free day on pit road added up to the top five in Fontana.

“We drove the car up to fifth before the weather came,’ Earnhardt said. “We had been watching the weather all day. We felt certain if it started to rain it wasn't going to stop. We made the right choice by staying out and building ourselves into the top three.

“Pretty happy. Pretty uneventful weekend. Other than the qualifying miscue we had, we've had a really good weekend.”

Earnhardt continues to brim with confidence after his good start to the 2012 season. He’s hoping the momentum from Sunday’s Fontana performance will follow him to next week’s trip to Martinsville Speedway.

The half-mile Virginia track is one of Earnhardt’s favorites and he’s looking forward to racing at the historic short track.

“I look forward going to Martinsville,” Earnhardt said. “I always have a lot of fun there. I think everybody really enjoys running there. It's a pretty fun track. We've had some good success there. I'm hoping to have a good race like we did last year and maybe have an opportunity to try to be in the battle for the win.”

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