Dale Earnhardt Jr. is convinced he needs to win more races if he is to fight for this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup title, despite having claimed the points lead following a fourth place at Indianapolis.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver rose to the top of the drivers' standings for the first time since 2004 in what has been one of his best, and most consistent, seasons at Cup level.
Following his top-five finish at Indy, Earnhardt has now tied a record for the most consecutive lead-lap finishes in NASCAR's elite series, which now stands at 21 and dates back to last year's season finale. He also leads the series in top-10 finishes, tied with his teammate Jimmie Johnson at 15 out of the first 20 races of the year.
However, Earnhardt currently holds a single win to his name and thus would drop behind two and three-time race winners once the Chase berths are set and bonus points for wins come in to play, which makes the 37-year-old eager to claim more victories. Last year Carl Edwards tied Tony Stewart in points after the season finale but lost the championship in a tiebreaker due to his lower tally of victories.
"All season of long we've been working hard and finishing well," said Earnhardt. "That is symbolic of how well we've done. I'm proud of that. 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 of races in the 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."
His teammate Jeff Gordon, currently the only Hendrick driver without a victory to his name in 2012, praised Earnhardt's move to the lead of the standings, which he feels confirms him as a potential threat for this year's title.
"It's really awesome that they're out front," says Gordon. "They've been consistent and if they can keep that consistency up and maybe even take it up a notch when the Chase starts, they're going to be a real threat for the championship."