STP Gas Booster 500: Earnhardt Jr. to Continue Strong Run

He never really flies under the radar but no one really looks at Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a Championship contender until he is on the top of the standings. Earnhardt Jr. is heading into Martinsville on top of the points standings and it doesn’t look like he is going to be slowing down any time soon.

Mar. 1, 2013; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr during qualifying for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He started off the season with a second place finish in the Daytona 500, finishing just behind teammate Jimmie Johnson. Since then, he hasn’t finished outside of the top 10. He is coming off of another runner up finish from California but his great run has been largely overshadowed by the chaos that followed Kyle Busch’s win.

As the Sprint Cup Series heads to the paperclip known as Martinsville Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. could very easily keep his top-10 streak going. Although he has never won at this half-mile track, it is arguably his best track on the circuit. Since 2000, the lowest he has finished in the spring race has been his inaugural event where he finished 26th. Since then, his worst finish is 15th and he has nine top-10 finishes.

Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t mind riding under the radar, in fact, he would like it that way.

“I feel like it gives us the opportunity to keep focusing on what we need to do. We’re still not winning races, and I don’t expect to get much attention until we can win races,” he said in a conference call earlier this week. “We’ve finished well, but I think there’s a lot of areas where we can improve. If we go out and win some races, we’ll get credit where credit is due. But we’ve run well, we’ve gotten lucky, we’ve had good cars, we’ve worked hard. There are other guys in the series not doing anything any flashier than we are. So I wouldn’t expect the spotlight to be much brighter than it is.”

Earnhardt Jr. broke his 140+ race winless streak last season when he went to victory lane at Michigan and hopes to add to that win record again this season. The No. 88 team seems to get better as they get farther into the season and that will definitely play into Earnhardt Jr.’s favor.

He was well on his way to a strong Chase run last season until a concussion caused him to miss two races in the middle of the Chase. You could say that No. 88 team and their driver have some unfinished business to take care of and it looks like they are well on their way to making the Chase in 2013 and could very easily be a serious Championship contender.

Topics: Dale Earnhardt Jr, Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR, Sprint Cup Series

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