Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Earnhardt Shows Consistency; with Lead in the Points Standings, He Might Have the Car to Beat in Sprint Cup Chase; MOTOR SPORTS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Earnhardt Shows Consistency; with Lead in the Points Standings, He Might Have the Car to Beat in Sprint Cup Chase; MOTOR SPORTS

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - Jimmie Johnson won his fourth Brickyard 400 and solidified his status as a title favorite in NASCAR.

Impressive? You bet.

Surprising? Not really.

But how about this: Dale Earnhardt Jr. left Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the Sprint Cup Series points lead.

Earnhardt finished fourth Sunday, his best finish at the track, and took a 14-point lead over previous points leader Matt Kenseth, who got caught in a crash. It was another sign of Earnhardt's new consistency, a development that might turn the driver with a famous last name into a real championship contender.

"That is symbolic of how well we've done; I'm proud of that," Earnhardt said. "I have felt that way about our position in points all season long. We need to win more races. If we want to win the championship, we have to. I imagine we can win a couple races in 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."

If it comes down to Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Earnhardt duking it out for the title at the end of the season, both drivers say bring it on.

"We would actually rather us two to fight for the championship at the end knowing one of us is going to get it for the company," Earnhardt said. "If I could line that up right now, I would. That is how I'd have it."

According to Johnson, team owner Rick Hendrick has such a strong organization that having multiple teams racing for the championship doesn't cause any drama between the drivers or crews.

"What it does especially for our company, it far exceeds any type of competitive spirit that exists, and from a technical standpoint, we all go to the racetrack with the same equipment," Johnson said. "No one gets favorites."

Hendrick has been through it before and doesn't expect any issues.

"These guys are sharing so much information, and I'm beyond that nervousness trying to get the teams together and say, 'Look, what got us here is working together and sharing information,'" Hendrick said. …

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