The question, on the surface, appeared to be a routine one. But the answer provided by Dale Earnhardt Jr. was far more revealing.
In the second question of his media availability on Friday at Richmond International Raceway, Earnhardt was asked, "What has been the secret to your success so far this season?" Certainly nothing controversial and an easy opportunity for Earnhardt to talk about his relationship with his new crew chief, Steve Letarte, and his new team.
His answer, however, was far more complex.
"It’s because I am the only one under the pressure to keep it up. Probably, so I hope I can come into the next race and keep up the consistency and do it again, and do it again. I don’t have the time to be worried about anything else other than just trying to keep going. So, it’s a lot of pressure to try and keep going and try to keep up the expectations that everybody has for you," Earnhardt said.
"When we accomplish certain goals like when we win a race or a couple of races, or make the Chase, or win a race in the Chase or battle for the championship … those are the kinds of things that I can be excited about and be happy with and I will enjoy those moments. And I am happy to be consistent but we still have another step to go and still we are running 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th at Texas when we should be running 3rd, 4th, and 5th you know?
"I can understand when one or two cars really hit on something and just outrun the field but you are going to want to be right behind them if you are not one of those two and you want to be right there. We are hustling and hustling pretty hard, but hustling just inside the top-10 and we need to step up just another notch and we have been just trying to work on that, focus on that and what that is and get that done as soon as possible so that we can continue our consistency and continue our strong run in the points up to this point.”
Earnhardt's answer was very telling. For one, it's clear he is not satisfied. And she shouldn't be. He's shown he can make repeated trips to Victory Lane.
And he's also aware of the enormous expectations his fans and all of NASCAR have for him and understands those won't be satisfied just with good finishes.