Before Sunday's running of the FedEx 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s recent history at Dover International Speedway hadn't been too good, having finished no better than 12th in his last eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts on the high-banked, concrete oval.
But in a race which featured a 12-car pileup just nine laps in, numerous engine failures and quite a few mistakes on pit road, there was Earnhardt Jr. persevering and finishing a very respectable fourth (you can see the full Dover results here).
According to Earnhardt Jr., the turnaround in performance on a track that has given him fits as of late is due to crew chief Steve Letarte for giving him a car that could handle the ever-changing track conditions that Dover often brings. It also didn't hurt that Earnhardt Jr. himself drove a patient race on an afternoon when countless competitors found trouble, whether on the track or in the pits.
"We were just a little loose on braking getting into the corner and couldn't really challenge Matt (Kenseth) or anybody really around us," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Wherever you kind of settled in after the restart is kind of where you were. We had a good car though. We had good speed.
"I run as hard as I could run. I didn't have anything left."
Earnhardt Jr.'s fourth-place finish marks the 10th time in 13 races this season that he has finished in the top 10 – just two shy of his total from all of last year – and moved him up one spot in the standings to third, only 10 points behind leader Greg Biffle.
But even as he was rejoicing on a job well done, Earnhardt Jr. was already focusing on next week's race at Pocono and then two weeks later on the road course at Sonoma – two tracks where he has struggled to consistently run well (or even decent in the case of Sonoma, as he's never finished a race there in the top 10 in 12 career starts).
"We are getting close," Earnhardt Jr. said about finally snapping his nearly four-year winless streak. "We are finishing good when we are not winning. I can't complain too much about how we are doing. We've got some tricky tracks coming up for us. The summer months aren't really my thing – the tracks at least – but hopefully we can have some more good runs."