“It always happens, doesn’t,” he said. “I’ll replay that one in my mind for a while, and wonder what we could have done. Next time we’re in that situation, I guess we’ll try and go a lap sooner.”
Despite 22 runner-up finishes, Earnhardt said that today felt like a real turning point. The strong finish gives him confidence going into the remainder of the season.
“We hear about the runner-up finishes all the time on the radio. Fans are disappointed we haven’t won yet, but we’re getting very close,” he said. “I think we’re right around the corner from winning one of these.”
Junior felt like this was one of the best packages he has had at Talladega and he showed it on the track. Unlike races in the past where he hung around in the back, Junior made a point to stay in the top 10 all day long.
“I was wondering if we may have led the most,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We had such a good car, since I have been working with Steve, we really haven’t had a good combination here and maybe I have torn up some really good cars and never got to see how good they were in races in the past. I knew in practice the car was strong. I am just wondering whether everyone was showing what they had. Once you get the whole field out there it is a little different, but our car was rocking. We were able to be aggressive. I was just trying to lead every lap of the race. I felt like that’s what I have seen be successful with this package and this car this year, if you’ve up front all the time, you tend to be there at the end when it counts, and we were.”
Junior said it wasn’t his strongest run, but he felt like if he would have gotten hooked up with Austin Dillon, he would had enough to take the checkered flag.
“It wasn’t the best run in the world. It wasn’t what I dreamed it would be all those last few laps,” Earnhardt. Jr said. “But it was a good enough run I think to get to his quarterpanel and get beside him and then we would have found out who our friends were at that point.”
The legacy that his father endured at Talladega over the years gave the Intimidator droves of fans at TSS. When his father passed away, the fans were still loyal to the Earnhardt name and their support has been with Junior ever since.
“So, I think that dad really started all that with the success he had here,” he said.
“Our DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) team came in and just kind of inherited already a pretty loyal fan base. This sport has got the most loyal fans as it is already. We sort of adopted a lot of people, and we were able to go out and win. And that endeared them and has for some time now.”
Junior said at times he thinks he can hear the fans over the all noise on the track, but definitely can see them when.
“Sometimes you swear you can hear them, but most of the time you can’t,” Earnhardt Jr. said Friday. “But you can definitely see it. You can definitely see, after lap after lap of going by the grandstand and seeing them sitting down. When you come by and they are standing up, it’s obvious, and you see the arms in the air and all that stuff.”