With a fourth-place run in Sunday's Crown Royal 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took over the series lead for the first time in nearly eight years. Earnhardt finished 31 positions ahead of Matt Kenseth, who entered the race at the top of the standings but fell victim to a late crash not of his making and finished 35th. Earnhardt leads the Cup series by 14 points over Kenseth and 22 over third-place Greg Biffle. Rather than enjoy his status as leader, Earnhardt appeared more concerned with finding a road map to his first Cup championship. "All season long, we've been working hard and finishing well," said Earnhardt, who is tied with teammate Jimmie Johnson, Sunday's race winner, for most top-10s in the series this year with 15. "That's 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 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." Before Sunday, Earnhardt hadn't led the points since October 2004, after winning at Talladega. Two days later, a 25-point penalty for cursing during a television interview cost him a lead he would not regain for nearly eight years. PENSKE, ALLMENDINGER TO DISCUSS DRIVER'S STATUS Team owner Roger Penske said Sunday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he will sit down with driver AJ Allmendinger during the coming week to discuss the driver's status with his organization. Allmendinger has been suspended from competition since July 8 for a failed random test under NASCAR's substance abuse program. Allmendinger has agreed to enter the sanctioning body's Road to Recovery program as a path to reinstatement. "From the standpoint of what happened or didn't happen, let's just put that aside," Penske said. "I would tell him as we're standing here, he's got to face the facts, these are the facts, let's move on now and go into whatever rehabilitation program's available to him, which I think will be very positive for him. "Also, unfortunately, he becomes the example, but I'll tell you, it sends really broad message across this garage area. One of the great things about NASCAR is that there are very few irregularities of this type that we've seen over the last couple of years. When you look at other sports -- stick-and-ball sports -- there's other things, and I think that's a credit to the way NASCAR runs it. "To me, unfortunately, he becomes an example, and we've got to move on, and I think he understands that, and I'm going to do everything I can to be one thought in his mind that, 'Hey, let's move on here.' " Penske can either replace Allmendinger in the No. 22 or wait for him to return. Sam Hornish Jr., who will drive the car next Sunday at Pocono, finished 16th at the Brickyard. EARLY ISSUES DERAIL EDWARDS In his first outing with new crew chief Chad Norris, Carl Edwards had early trouble, when his No. 99 Ford lost power and forced him to pit road on Lap 13. By the end of the race, Edwards still didn't know the specific problem that left him in 29th place, four laps down. "We think it's some issue with the ECU (electronic control unit for the fuel injection system)," Edwards said. "We changed that, along with the spark plugs, and the engine started running better." Edwards slipped one spot to 12th in the Cup standings, and without a victory this season, he's in jeopardy of missing the Chase. To crack the top 10 and secure one of the guaranteed Chase positions, Edwards would have to overcome a 61-point deficit in the next six races. "I don't think we are points racing anymore," Edwards proclaimed after the race. "I think we are officially racing only for wins. We have to take chances. We have to go race. We can do that -- we can race like that. "It will actually be a big relief in a way, because there is no other choice. We just go race for wins. I wouldn't bet against us -- we can do it."
New Points Leader….Dale Jr.July 29th, 2012 at 8:15 pm -
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