The last 15 laps of Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway weren't quick enough for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As he maintained a comfortable five-second lead over Tony Stewart and drove closer to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in four years, Earnhardt was preoccupied with what might go wrong.
Four years ago, in his last victory at Michigan, Earnhardt worried that he might run out of gas. On Sunday, he worried about everything.
"I was so nervous in the last few laps of that race four years ago, and today, this was the worst ‑‑ that's the worst feeling riding around there with 15 laps to go wondering what's going to happen or how you were going to lose," Earnhardt said with a laugh. "I was just thinking, man, those laps could not go by fast enough. I was like 'I've got a big lead, I'm going to take it easy -- no, I want to run it hard, get it over with.'
"So I was just in there going crazy, thinking ‑‑ and I'm looking all around the racetrack hoping there's no debris around the next corner. I just knew I was going to come around the next corner and see a piece of metal laying in the racetrack. I was just waiting on something to happen. So that was terrifying, to be honest with you."
Ultimately, Earnhardt focused in the closing laps on the efforts of crew chief Steve Letarte and his team.
"I kept thinking about Steve and the team and how hard we have worked and how we deserved to win, and how we should win, and was hoping it would happen for everybody. That race four years ago was a fuel mileage race, and today we just whooped them really good. So that felt good."