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Now Earnhardt will move on this week to Texas, site of his first career win 11 years ago, and where if he doesn’t win Saturday night, his losing streak will hit 100 races. But he’s got plenty to feel good about right now _ he’s obviously faster this year, he’s eighth in the standings and his 11.2 average finish right now is up from the last two seasons.

And maybe he learned on Sunday that he can get to the front again, and wins might not be that far away. As he reflected, though, on what might have been, he couldn’t help but wonder what he could have done differently.

Knowing that there was possibly something that he did that cost him that victory forced him to temper his excitement with the reality.

“Well, I ain’t really proved it to myself yet,” Earnhardt said when asked if “he’s back.”

“I’ll let you know when I feel like I’m back, personally. We got some work to do still, and you know, we are faster, we are more competitive than last year. But we still got a little ways to go.”