Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s fourth-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday means the Hendrick Motorsports driver has now started the season with 19 consecutive lead-lap finishes – which is a modern-era record, according to his publicist (NASCAR confirmed the stat).
Here's what Earnhardt Jr. said about his top-five Loudon result on Sunday (selected quotes courtesy of Chevrolet):
"We were just about a tenth (of a second) off all weekend. We tire-tested here, and were quick and real happy with the car, so not sure where it went. Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and my guys worked really hard on the car during the race, we just could get any better than we were. Happy with another top-five, but need to get some better and win some more races.
We just didn't have enough. All weekend we worked on the car real hard and worked during the race real hard and we just couldn't run any better than we were running. Track position was real important to us. I don't know if we had a good enough race car to get back there and race anybody. We're just happy to run in the top five. We're strong. We've just got to get another notch, you know, and start winning some more races."
I don't know, man, we're pretty excited about our chances when we get to the Chase, but we've still got some things to learn and accomplish before we get there. We're not looking too far ahead, you know; we're trying to work on one race at a time.
When we've got about a 10th-place car, we've got to use good strategy and be smart on the race track and finish in the top five with it and run in the top five every week. You've got to win some races too, I think, to win the championship. We're running strong. I'm really happy with how many points we're gaining every week and what we're doing consistently.
We just need a tick more speed. We've gotten faster. We've found speed and improved. You just need a little bit more to really be one of those dominant cars every week.