Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes points lead

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally got some good news at Indy.

Earnhardt moved into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series points lead

with a fourth-place finish Sunday in the Brickyard 400. It was his

best finish in 13 starts at the famed Speedway, and it moved him 14

points ahead of previous leader Matt Kenseth, who finished 35th

after a crash.

Earnhardt said he’d like to win again – he snapped a streak of

143 races without a win earlier this season at Michigan – but he

appreciates where his team is positioned.

”We’ve persevered all year, and we’ve done good work all

year,” Earnhardt said. ”I think it is a bit of a confidence

booster, something I’m proud of because we’ve worked hard all year

and we’ve got something to show for it.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson won the race to

move up to fourth in the standings.

Earnhardt started 20th before moving up the field. He entered

the day confident that the car had speed, despite the mediocre

qualifying effort. Even with the speed, it was a challenging

day.

”We got about as good a finish as we could today with the way

we were handling,” he said. ”We weren’t the best car, but we

finished in the top five.”

Now, the team needs to close the deal.

”We’ve just got to get a good finish this year,” he said. ”We

had a good car last year, we just didn’t get a good finish.”

Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon, who finished fifth, is impressed

with the way Earnhardt and his crew have performed.

”They’ve been solid this year,” Gordon said. ”Give them a lot

of credit. It’s really awesome that they’re out front. They’ve been

consistent and if they can keep that consistency up and even take

it up a notch, it’s going to be rough the rest of the

championship.”

EDWARDS FADES EARLY: Carl Edwards said Saturday after qualifying

second that he didn’t know what it was like to have good track

position.

Turns out, he didn’t have it for long. He had an engine

malfunction during lap 13 that dropped him two laps behind the

leaders after a stop that lasted one minute, four seconds. He

finished 29th.

Edwards had raced seven times at Indy, but started in the top 10

just twice, with a best start of ninth. Despite the less-than-ideal

starts, he finished second in 2008, seventh in 2010 and ninth in

2006.

With Edwards switching from Bob Osborne, who is dealing with

unspecified health issues, to new crew chief Chad Norris, the team

was hopeful after the strong performance during qualifying.

Instead, Edwards posted his worst finish in eight starts in

Indy.

Edwards was concerned about morale.

”Right now, we are going to talk to the guys. Chad and I want

to make sure they know that we do not quit. We keep going. We don’t

give up. We put our best effort out there, and if it is meant to

be, it will be.”

Edwards left Indy in 12th place in points and in danger of

missing the chase for the championship. The performance has changed

his approach for the rest of the season.

”I don’t think we are racing for points anymore,” he said. ”I

think we are officially only racing for wins.”

CLEAR THE WAY: Tony Stewart again sliced his way through the

field, but didn’t get as far as he had hoped.

The Columbus, Ind., driver’s average starting position had been

18th at Indy before this year, yet his average finish was seventh

and he had two wins. This year, he started 28th and finished 10th,

yet felt he could have done better if some slower drivers had let

him by.

”There is just guys who just forget about what we are supposed

to be doing here,” he said. ”They are more worried about blocking

the guys behind them than trying to figure out how to pass the guys

in front of them.”

Gordon offered similar thoughts.

”I don’t understand why there are cars that are running with no

problems out there that are 10, 20 laps down, how that’s minimum

speed,” he said. ”They need to change minimum speed. I appreciate

a rookie out there trying to get laps, but laps without some pace

is not doing him any good anyway, and if you are running that pace,

then move out of the way of the leader.

Both still added to their history at Indianapolis. Stewart has

nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts. Gordon led one lap, meaning he

has been out front for at least a lap in 12 of his 19 Brickyard

starts.

LUGNUTS: NASCAR estimated the attendance at 125,000, down from

138,000 last year. … Sam Hornish Jr. finished 16th in his bid to

become the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and the

Brickyard 400. Hornish won the Indy 500 in 2006 with a classic pass

against Marco Andretti on the final straightaway. Hornish made is

his third straight in place of the suspended A.J. Allmendinger.