Even Dale Earnhardt Jr. will admit he isn't at his best whenever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But in preparation for today's race and in spite of his lack of success here, Earnhardt Jr. does have fond memories of racing on one of the more historic speedways in America.
Chief among them, he fondly recalls the 1995 race. It was on that day that seven-time Sprint Cup champion Dale Earnhardt fended off Rusty Wallace to win what was the second running of the Brickyard 400.
"I knew it meant a lot to him when he did eventually win here because he knew, I think, that he was on the backside of his career," Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday. "He wasn't certainly wasn't staring at 15 more years, and knew the opportunities would be limited coming here once a year. It meant a lot to him to get a win."
Earnhardt Jr. is hoping to join his father on the list of Brickyard winners, and in the midst of the best start of his career, the drivers is confident he is in the best position he's ever been in to finally score an Indy victory.
This is despite the fact he has just two top-10 finishes in 12 career starts on the 2.5-mile oval.
"I don't come here thinking, ‘I've never been able to get my finger on this place,'" Earnhardt Jr. said. "I feel like I know how to get around here. I'm just looking for the right balance in the car and just putting together a good race. That's something we've been able to do this year."
The opportunity to join what is a prestigious group of Indy winners is a something Earnhardt Jr. desires. Seeing his name alongside Indy winners like Foyt, Mears, Andretti and Gordon would be meaningful for a driver who has a keen understanding and appreciation of the history of NASCAR and racing in general.
"We like coming here," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Like the history of the racetrack; the history here is incredible all the way to when it was shut down through the war. How they had to renovate the place and bring it back. Just how it was able to survive a lot of things like that.
"Here we are racing on it today. It is just incredible."