The record meant little to Dale Earnhardt Jr. compared to his car’s performance Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt’s fifth-place finish continues his position as the active driver with the most top-five finishes at New Hampshire who hasn’t won a Cup race there. Sunday marked his eighth top-five finish there.
Earnhardt, though, was more focused on how his car performed with a return trip to this track in September for the second race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“The car didn’t really drive that great,’’ Earnhardt said. “We tried to get it better during the race. We had some engine issues. I saw some stuff with the gauges that were way off. We were getting beat down the straightaway all day, even by the Hendrick stuff. Guys will go back and see what’s wrong.
“I was real tight in the center early in the race. We could improve on that on the first couple adjustments. Then it started tightening up real fast towards the last half of the race. We couldn’t keep up with how tight it was getting. I was shearing on throttle, real loose on throttle. I felt that, too. Real frustrating to drive.’’
The inability to race for the win stood out most to Earnhardt.
“I’m more concerned that we don’t have speed,’’ he said. “We ran fifth, but I didn’t like the car at all. My teammates didn’t have a lot of great speed. So as a whole, we need to really work hard, try to come here a little stronger next time.’’
As for Earnhardt’s top-five mark at New Hampshire?
“I’m always like the third-, fourth-, fifth-best car,’’ he said. “I’m never like (runner-up Brad Keselowski, winner Kylie Busch, Kevin Harvick or Denny Hamlin). That is very frustrating.
“But at the same time, you know, I got to say something about my ability and the team’s ability. I take a lot of pride in having a good, positive statistic like that. But it sure would be nice to hold the lobster and do all the fun stuff they do in victory lane.’’