Sunday’s Axalta We Paint Winners 400 at Pocono Raceway was one of those glass-is-half-full-vs.-glass-is-half-empty deals for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The half-full part was that Earnhardt brought the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet home in second place for the fourth time in only 14 races in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
And after failing to finish any higher than 13 th in the past five races, coming home second to Kurt Busch was definitely a step in the right direction for Earnhardt and his team.
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"Yeah, it certainly feels better than finishing 15 th, Earnhardt said after the race. "You know, and the car wasn’t that bad. We just have such high standards after the last couple years we’ve had. Man, when you get just a little bit behind in this series, holy moly, it takes so much work to just regain what you lost, not really even to have an advantage, just to get back to where you were. A tenth out on that racetrack is impossible to find."
And Earnhardt said he liked how the next few races set up for him this summer.
"I felt like we could come in here and run good, and I think we learned a lot that we can understand how to get better for the next race here," he said. "I’m looking forward to Michigan, and obviously it’s going to be a different package, but I think we’ll run good on that track, too, and anticipate having a good run at Kentucky."
The-glass-is-half-empty part of the deal is that second place is still second place.
Busch took his first and only lead of the race on Lap 129, one lap after a restart. The winner outdueled Earnhardt and his rookie teammate Chase Elliott to take a lead he would never relinquish.
And afterwards, Earnhardt took to Twitter and took responsibility for not winning.
We should have won today.😡 I didn't do my best on the final restart.😫 My team gave me a shot at it.💪🏼 Hell of a group of guys. @AxaltaRacing