Dale Earnhardt Jr. is your NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader.
For the first time since Sept. 19, 2004 – a span of 280 races – Earnhardt Jr. is leading the NASCAR standings after a fourth-place result at Sunday's Indianapolis Motor Speedway moved him past former leader Matt Kenseth (who wrecked and finished 35th).
"I'm proud of that because it says a lot about our body of work," Earnhardt Jr. said. "All season long, we've been working hard and finishing well. That is symbolic of how well we've done. I'm proud of that. I have felt that way about our position in points all season long."
But even as Earnhardt Jr. reflected on his accomplishment, which includes posting a series-best 15 top-10 finishes, there was still the acknowledgement that for his team to be considered genuine title contenders they need to do more.
"We need to win more races," he said. "If we want to win the championship, we have to. I imagine we can win a couple races in the Chase. I don't know if finishing fourth or fifth is going to do it. We'll just have to see. We'd like to step it up just a little bit more."
Earnhardt Jr. entered the weekend thinking he had a good shot to win his first NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's a race he would like to win for a variety of reasons, but particularly due to his appreciation for the track's rich history.
When he qualified 20th on Saturday, a win didn't seem likely. But he clawed his way to the top five and had a good car – though perhaps not as good as teammate Jimmie Johnson. The fourth-place finish was a career best at the Brickyard.
"I give them a lot of credit," Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon said. "It's really awesome that they're out front. They've been consistent and if they can keep that consistency up and maybe even take it up a notch when the Chase starts, they're going to be a real threat for the championship."