Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters the Richmond International Raceway weekend sitting third in Sprint Cup Series points and already has two top-five finishes – one less than he had for the entire 2010 season.
But despite his consistent start to the year, Earnhardt Jr. hasn't seemed overly impressed with his results so far – even if fans and media are. Why not?
"I think it's because I'm the only one under the pressure to keep it up," he told reporters Friday. "I hope I can come into the next race and keep up the consistency and do it again and do it again. I don't have time to be worried about anything other than just trying to keep going."
Earnhardt Jr. said there's not only pressure to perform, but to keep posting solid results. Since the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr. hasn't finished lower than 12th – the longest such streak in his career since the early portion of the 2008 season.
"It's a lot of pressure to try to keep up the expectations that everybody has for you," he said. "When we accomplish certain goals – like win a couple races or make the Chase or win a race in the Chase or battle for the championship – those kind of things I can get excited about and be happy with those moments.
"I'm happy to be consistent, but we still have another step to go. We're running seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th at Texas when we should be running third, fourth, fifth."
To that end, Earnhardt Jr. said his Hendrick Motorsports team needs to "step it up another notch." He's trying to figure that out as soon as possible, he said, in order to keep his success going.
Richmond would be a good place for Earnhardt Jr. to snap his now-triple-digit winless streak. He's won at Richmond three times in the past, but said his results have suffered even at his best tracks over the last few seasons.
"I've struggled at all three or four of them in the past couple years," he said. "The last couple years, I've struggled every weekend. It's not a good reflection of how well I can do at this place. I hope Steve (Letarte) and the guys are on the ball and the car and me work together well and I'm comfortable in it. ... Just anxious right now to see how the car will drive."