Ho-hum. Another race, another top-10 finish for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr. finished ninth at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, marking his sixth straight result of 12th or higher. That's the longest such streak of consistent finishes for NASCAR's most popular driver since he had seven in a row during March/April 2008 – his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.
The results that were once hard to come by for Earnhardt Jr. – he only had nine finishes of 12th or better all of last year – are now seemingly routine.
"That's how good the team is," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We just ain't made any real big mistakes."
Earnhardt Jr. moved up two spots in the Sprint Cup Series point standings – to sixth – and is now closer to the championship leader (-21 points) than the Chase bubble (+26 points).
"We had a much better car tonight (than ninth)," he said. "We had a terrible pit stop at one point, lost a bunch of track position. The last two runs, we made some adjustments that didn't suit the car too well. It was too tight, and then we jumped back over the fence and it was too loose. Still a good car; happy with the way we ran."
Sitting on the pit wall after the race, Earnhardt Jr. was drenched with sweat and held a cool rag to his neck. He had told his team during the middle portion of the race that he was extremely hot inside the car on a steamy Texas evening.
"I was OK near the end, but that long green-flag run in the middle was getting hu-mid!" he said. "But we cooled off there under them cautions, and everything was fine there toward the end."
When Earnhardt Jr. got out of the car, he and David Ragan (who finished seventh) had a brief chat. The two had raced hard on a couple different occasions during the race, and Earnhardt Jr. at one point had mentioned wrecking the Roush Fenway Racing driver.
"I was getting frustrated there, but he was doing what he was supposed to do," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I was mad, but I want the spot, man! The hell with running behind him. My car was way faster than his, but I just couldn't get by him. He was running a good line, and I was loose on the bottom."
So based on the way he's running lately, would anything but a top 10 be a disappointment at this point?
"Well, every week that I've ever ran, if I don't run where I think I should, it's a letdown to me," he said. "So I'd say yeah."