Dale Jr.: Time to 'Seize the Moment'

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "We want to win numerous races ... in a season. We want that to be the status quo.'' (Photo: Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he has the best opportunity in his career to win, and he must “seize the moment.’’

One year since his last NASCAR Sprint Cup victory, Earnhardt is back at Michigan International Speedway for this weekend’s Quicken Loans 400.

Earnhardt arrives after a third-place finish at Pocono, refueling his hope that he’s about to embark on a strong series of races similar to the start of the season.

Earnhardt opened the year with five top-10 finishes and led the points after the race at Auto Club Speedway in late March.

“We started the season off so promising, the best that I had ever started a season,’’ he said. “It just seemed like things were going so perfectly and it’s the way it is in this sport.  You will think you have everything going in the right direction and then odds and fate and everything else get in the way.’’

Since then, he’s had back-to-back top-10 finishes once - the past two races. He placed 10th at Dover and had a top-five at Pocono.

“We feel like we are coming through a stretch of races and race tracks, if you take out Sonoma, that we should run pretty well at and have a lot of confidence at,’’ Earnhardt said Friday. “Not that we won’t go to Sonoma and hope to run well, we will, but the track record speaks for itself there. 

“We did test at Kershaw (Carolina Motorsports Park) to try to get ourselves a good chance of getting maybe, hopefully, my career-best finish at that place.  We will try to do that.’’

Earnhardt’s best finish at Sonoma is 11th. He’s done that three times, the most recent in 2010.

He has a week to worry about that. The focus is on Michigan and ending a 33-race winless streak.

Until he does, the questions will persist about not winning.

“Well, we have come close,’’ said Earnhardt, who has two runner-ups and seven top-five finishes since his last victory. “I don’t know if we could have won Daytona this year to beat Jimmie (Johnson) if we had a few more laps.  

“It’s been good to be close. That is the difference I think between where we are and where I want to be. We want to win more races. We want to win numerous races and multiple races in a season. We want that to be the status quo.’’

Earnhardt admits that different from when he started working with crew chief Steve Letarte in 2011. 

“When we first started working together we were trying to figure out how to get a 15th-place combination into the top-10 and we were happy when we did,’’ Earnhardt said. “Now, when we run in the top-10, it’s just another weekend and what do we have to do to win. That is how we feel.’’

Now he has to go out and do that. The 38-year-old driver says he won’t be distracted in his quest for wins and a championship even with questions of if his window of opportunity is narrowing.

“I don’t feel like there is a clock in the background ticking away that is annoying me or anything like that,’’ he said. 

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