Earnhardt Jr. Back On Top

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. is tied with teammate Jimmie Johnson for the most top 10s this season with 15. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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INDIANAPOLIS - Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead for the first time since 2004 with his fourth-place finish in Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at The Brickyard.

Along with his 15th top-10 finish of the season, Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of Matt Kenseth's misfortune in the race to take the lead by 14 points. Heading into today's 160-lap race, Earnhardt trailed Kenseth by 16 markers.

"If you run in the top five or top 10 enough, you will get points," Earnhardt Jr. said. "But we would like to win more races. We are working real hard, really happy with our result today."

Earnhardt not only tied Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon’s record for most consecutive lead lap finishes in Cup history with 21, but also teammate, and race winner, Jimmie Johnson for the most top-10 finishes this season.

"Happy for Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 48 shop," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Everybody has got to be happy with what we got today."

Earnhardt's finish was his best in 13 starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He started the race in 20th and quickly made his way into the top 10, passing the most cars (43) while running in the top 15.

"We were really excited about our car the first run," Earnhardt Jr. said. "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. We messed with the balance a little bit throughout the race. It wasn't perfect at the end. I think we got the best we could with car, and the speed that we had."

Kenseth, who led the standings for the previous six races, finished 35th after he was collected by a spinning Joey Logano on lap 132.

"It is frustrating," said Kenseth, who recorded his first finish outside the top 25 this season. "We got back there and some guys were driving pretty crazy. I guess at the very end of it the 21 and 78 were mad at each other and running into each other and then the 20 was trying to pass the 21 and just lost control of his car."

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