Junior is used to being in the middle of the action, but going into today’s AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, he’s nowhere near the Chase and just looking for something good to happen.
If he were a football coach, he’d be looking for a November to remember, a strong finish to build some momentum to take into next season.
“We ran good at Texas (next week’s stop) the last time we were there; we drove up and led some laps in that race,” Earnhardt said Saturday. “Phoenix is something we need to work on, but we tested at Homestead with Goodyear and hopefully that will help me get there and do a little bit better.
“We had a good car there last year until I drove it in the fence about three times. It could end on some good notes here.”
He couldn’t have come to a better place to get it started.
Earnhardt has won here five times, ranking him second in victories among active drivers behind only Jeff Gordon. But he hasn’t taken the checkered flag here since the fall race in 2004 (11 races), the end of seven straight top-two finishes.
In addition to the strong history here, he comes to town off a seventh-place finish in Martinsville — only his second top 10 finish since the Fourth of July — prompting Rick Hendrick to say he comes in with a lot of confidence.
He qualified sixth Saturday. It was his third top 10 start in four weeks and his second at Talladega this year.
“I think he’s just being nice,” Earnhardt said. “I always like coming here and it’s a fun track. We’ve got a pretty good car. We normally bring a good one here.
“We had a couple of chances of being in the mix there in the last few and just had some things happen. Hopefully, we’ll have a good opportunity to make it right this time. The car ran a good qualifying lap and has good speed.”
Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.