As the two-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s last Sprint Cup victory arrives this weekend, NASCAR's most popular driver says he's "starving" for a win.
Earnhardt Jr. won a fuel mileage race at Michigan two years ago, which stands as his lone points victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
This season started with much promise, but Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team have hit a recent slide, with no top-10 finishes since Texas in April.
But despite being 16th in points, Earnhardt Jr. insisted Friday he's confident in his team and feels as though everyone is going in the right direction.
Said Earnhardt Jr.: "With everything I've been through since I've won my last race, I can honestly tell you with no bullshit that this weekend, I'll get in the car Sunday and I firmly believe in what Lance is going to do, what the team is going to do, the information that he's getting from his engineers, what he's hearing from the other three teammates. I firmly am behind that and trust in our effort. I know with myself personally, if I feel like I see a weakness in the team, it bugs the shit out of me. And I don't see a weakness there."
So what's the problem? Well, at Pocono last week, Earnhardt Jr. had about a 10th-place car all day and the team was once again bitten by pit strategy.
The cautions didn't fall right, and for what seems like the fourth or fifth time already this season, a potentially solid finish was thwarted by a decision that looks bad in hindsight.
"You make the right call or the wrong call and you don't know at the time which one you're making til the race is over," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Hindsight, you look back and go, 'Well, we should have done something different.' But at the time, you feel like you're making the call that you need to make.
"A lot of times, it's probably not quite as obvious as this side of the fence what the right call is as it might be for you guys or the fans across the fence that are watching the races. It's a different point of view, I'm sure, for everybody."
Earnhardt Jr. said he was "not upset" about the results of pit calls because unless he has perfect performance as a driver, he's unable to point fingers.
A good attitude, he said, is as important to fixing the No. 88 team as anything.
"A lot of it's your attitude when you get in the car – which I'm not the best at," Earnhardt Jr. said, "but we're trying."
On Friday, Earnhardt Jr. spent the early part of practice in race setup and was very pleased with the balance of his car. It turned out to actually be better than qualifying trim, he said, which helps explain why he practiced 13th but qualified 27th.
Making changes, he said, was "almost effortless."
Perhaps a good run could be in store for the anniversary of Earnhardt Jr.'s last win, even though he said he "didn't even think about it" until the media brought it up.
"It's a long time, but what are you going to do?" he said. "I'll be around for a long enough time hopefully to get a few more wins. We're starving for one and working hard to get there."
Earlier Friday, Mark Martin reiterated his belief that Earnhardt Jr. is driving harder than anyone in the Sprint Cup Series.
Those words "mean the world to me," Earnhardt Jr. said, "because I do believe in my heart that I work every corner for what it's worth. It's really difficult to see that from 1000 yards away how much somebody's working.
"I really do work really hard out there. I drove last week as hard as I could every lap, because I knew we were really close on the car and I felt like if I gave ourselves as much opportunity as I could and we got fortunate on an adjustment on pit road and helped the car some, we could have a top-five finish."