Dale Earnhardt Jr. is optimistic that Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega could be the event where he finally brings his long winless streak to an end.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver, a five-time winner at Talladega, has been a top contender in recent restrictor plate events, pushing teammate Jimmie Johnson to victory a year ago at the 2.66-mile venue and most recently finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Earnhardt has enjoyed his strongest season start since joining Hendrick and he currently heads his team-mates Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne in the standings, running second in the points race, only five adrift of leader Greg Biffle.
"I feel like my confidence goes up when I come here," said Earnhardt ahead of Sunday's 500-miler at Talladega. "I think that any driver should feel the same way when you go to Talladega or Daytona because the cars are all really even. You just have to make good decisions. You don't really have to rely on a lot of the things, or count on all the things that your normally do at other racetracks.
"I think everything we did at Daytona was a top-five – the Shootout, we wrecked, but we ran second or third in the [Duel], and were second in the Daytona 500. We feel confident this weekend."
Earnhardt has been critical of the tandem drafting technique that NASCAR is hoping to hamper this year through rule tweaks, which appear to be having the desired effect at Talladega. Drivers have been wary about engine temperatures running on the edge due to weather conditions this weekend, something Earnhardt believes suits his chances more than in recent races at Talladega.
"This probably is one of our better shots as far as how the drafting has changed with the rule changes they made before Daytona. That suits me better," said Earnhardt. "As hot as it is, I think that even leans toward us pack racing more than tandem racing. I'm pretty sure that is kind of in my favor.
"I'm looking forward to the race. My odds I don't think have increased just because of how well we've run this year. We're just going to see how it goes."
Besides Earnhardt hoping to end a streak of 138 races without victory, Hendrick Motorports is still seeking its 200th Cup win after coming close a number of times over recent weeks. The Chevrolet squad, 11 times a winner at Talladega, has yet to score its first victory of 2012.