With the NASCAR season rapidly approaching, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made it clear what his expectations are for himself and his race team in 2013.
"We have an opportunity," Earnhardt Jr. sad Friday at Daytona International Speedway. "Our time is now, we have a chance."
In large part, Earnhardt Jr.'s mindset can be traced back to last season where he was one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit. And that consistency, which netted him one win, 10 top fives and 17 top 10s during the regular season, had many thinking that Earnhardt Jr. would be a contender for the title during the Chase.
However, a series of concussions, which took him out of the car for two weeks, derailed any chance Earnhardt Jr. may have had. And instead, he ended the year 12th overall.
"It was a disappointment not to finish as well as we had hoped in the Chase and go for that championship," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We felt like we were a strong enough team at parts of the year to definitely do that."
But now fully recovered, and citing a strong team behind him along with the excellent rapport he shares with crew chief Steve Letarte, Earnhardt Jr. is determined to fulfill last season's promise and finally win that elusive first Cup title.
"We definitely got some unfinished business," he said. "And we feel like we can put forth the same effort and get the same results this year.
"If we can just find some more pieces and keep improving, keep working and not get complacent about certain things, we can be one of those teams that are sitting there at Homestead with a shot at it. I really believe that."
Not only is Earnhardt Jr. happy with where his team is at, he's also happy with the direction NASCAR is headed. In particular, he likes the changes the sport has undergone in the last few years - specifically the development of the new car and the implementation of double-file restarts. And all this has him energized about what the future holds.
"I feel like this sport is in a good, healthy place and we have a good opportunity to grow," Earnhardt Jr. said. "With this car we have a chance to do something great and really make a big impact. ...I think the racing is as exciting as it's been in a long time."