Earnhardt Jr. Still Upbeat


"I don't want to get too down and think about the positives and be productive so we can go to Bristol and try to win there." (Photo: Getty Images)


LAS VEGAS – Dale Earnhardt Jr. came up just short of a second win this season but he’s still feeling positive about his season.

Earnhardt was only a half lap away from taking another checkered flag to go along with his Daytona 500 victory Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But a gamble on fuel turned out to be just a tick off and he eventually ran out of gas allowing Brad Keselowski to speed by for the win.

However, Earnhardt remained upbeat after the turn of events despite the frustrating way his day ended in Vegas.

“It's disappointing, but at the same time the good Lord has blessed me with a good team and good fortune and great opportunity, so I don't want to get too down and think about the positives and be productive so we can go to Bristol and try to win there,” Earnhardt said.

After winning in Daytona, Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte promised they’d take a more aggressive approach to the rest of the regular season since they were virtually assured a Chase berth under NASCAR’s new championship format.

The duo showed they meant business last week in Phoenix when Earnhardt did all he could to run down eventual winner Kevin Harvick. And the new format certainly seemed to play into Sunday’s decision to roll the dice on fuel strategy.

“I think everybody has seen that over the last couple of weeks, that this format has definitely allowed teams to gamble like we have,” said Earnhardt.

“You know, it did pay off. Not the ultimate prize, but we did run second. We weren't going to as much as you want to win, and believe me, we were out there trying to win, you do take pride in a good performance, a good finish, and we weren't going to run in the top 5 if we hadn't have used that particular strategy, if we'd have run the same strategy as our competitors we would have probably run just inside the top 10 where we were all day.”

Earnhardt is the Sprint Cup Series point leader and has now finished in the top two in the first three races of the season.

“Yeah, this is a good start for sure,” said Earnhardt. “Yeah, the confidence is up there. When we first got together we'd run our guts out to run in the top 15. Then the next year we'd run our guts out to run in the top 10, and you wondered when you'd get up to fifth and start running in the top five regularly. We started doing that finally last year, and so our team just keeps stepping up this ladder.

“We were really strong at the end of the year last year. It just thrilled me to death. So this is great. Yeah, you definitely don't want to take it for granted, get used to it, but this is what we envisioned, and starting to bear some fruit.”

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