Strong finish at Pocono moves Dale Earnhardt Jr. up 2 spots in standings
Sunday, Jun. 09, 2013
LONG POND, PA - JUNE 09: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 9, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
LONG POND, PA - JUNE 09: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 9, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
LONG POND, Pa. Dale Earnhardt Jr. hopes Sunday rekindled what started as a promising season.
Earnhardt finished third in NASCARs Party In The Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway, his best finish on the Sprint Cup circuit since beginning the season with five consecutive top-five finishes. In the next races, however, Earnhardt managed just two top-10 finishes. Included in that stretch was a 39th-place finish at Charlotte, where his engine gave out midway through the race.
It was good for us to get a good run, said Earnhardt of his day at Pocono. We were counting on sort of rebounding. We havent had a good last couple of months. Cars havent been that fast and weve had some issues here and there.
With Jimmie Johnson showing the way Sunday with easily the races strongest car, Earnhardt and the rest of the field never had much of a chance. But his third-place finish allowed him to move up two places in the points standings to fourth. Hes still 82 points behind leader Johnson but just 13 behind third-place Clint Bowyer.
And next up for Earnhardt is the Quicken Loans 400 next Sunday at Michigan a race he won last season, breaking what was then a 143-race winless streak. Like Pocono, Michigan International Raceway has been repaved recently, which suits Earnhardt.
The repaves, we ran well last year, Earnhardt said. We (had) a good package going to Pocono and going to Michigan. Well see when we get (to Michigan). But so far its been real similar to last year.
As Earnhardt and his No. 88 team prepare for Michigan, theyll work with teammate Johnson at their Hendrick Motorsports shop in Concord. Thats something of which Earnhardt says he and crew chief Steve Letarte always try to take advantage.
They win championships, said Earnhardt of the No. 48 team. They win a lot of races. (Johnson) is going to have his opportunities all year long. Its fortunate enough for me I get to be in the same shop as those guys. I get to lean on them and I get to know exactly whats happening under the hood. I can learn and use that to my advantage.
Hes one of the best drivers the sport has ever seen and Chad Knaus is probably one of the smartest crew chiefs the sport has ever seen.
Johnson said he understands the importance of working with his teammate.
They grow stronger and stronger each week, said Johnson of Earnhardts team. Theres a bright light on those guys and what they do week in and week out. Theyre strong and they elevate their teammates. We certainly do all we can to help them out and help them grow and get stronger. But theyre clicking and doing a great job.