Earnhardt Finishes Second Again
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on November 3, 2013 | 9:11 P.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored his sixth top-10 finish in the Chase on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, Texas - It was another race without a victory for Dale Earnhardt Jr., but it seems as if that streak could soon end.
Earnhardt scored his third runner-up finish in the last six races Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, finishing behind Jimmie Johnson.
“We’re getting close,’’ said Earnhardt, winless this season.
Earnhardt’s finish was his 20th top-10 finish of the season. Only Johnson, the points leader, has more with 22. Earnhardt’s run also moved him two spots to fifth in the points.
“His confidence is higher than it’s ever been,’’ car owner Rick Hendrick said of Earnhardt. “We get plenty of questions of, ‘When is he going to win a race?’ He’s right there. Hopefully we can continue this the next two weeks. I hope he can win a race and carry this momentum into next year.’’
Earnhardt’s run Sunday had added meaning because of where the car was earlier in the weekend.
“Saturday morning in the first practice, we were struggling,’’ Earnhardt said. “We worked on the car and improved it for the second practice and made a lot of changes overnight to go in that direction. When the race started, we had a top-10 car, and I think (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) improved it quite a bit.’’
It’s easy to wonder what might have been had Earnhardt not had an engine failure in the opening Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway.
“The Chicago deal is regrettable,’’ said Earnhardt, who has six top-10 finishes in the Chase. “We'd love to go back and do that over again, but as soon as that happened, we really changed our approach and it was more about trying to win a race.
“Winning a race would really lift the team’s spirits. I know how much the guys want the win on the team. So that's what we're working for now.’’
Without the weight of a title race, Earnhardt and Letrate could be more aggressive Sunday.
“We gambled a little bit in the late stages of this race short pitting and getting a lot of track position, and we had a fast enough car to keep it, but (Johnson) was in another class and nobody had anything for him,’’ Earnhardt said. “He was just super good all through practice and in the race.’’
Earnhardt says his team is moving closer to that level.
“We’re not running second by making mistakes,’’ he said. “We’re not giving away wins. I feel like we’re just really getting close to cracking through.’’
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