Earnhardt hopes to put last year behind

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CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - At first Dale Earnhardt Jr. was relieved he didn’t fall further back than seventh at last year’s Coca-Cola 600. Then he realized what he had lost for just about a gallon of gas.

Earnhardt was on the way to ending a three-year Sprint Cup winless drought at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2011 when he ran out of gas coming out of turn four with the lead. Instead of celebrating a much-needed victory, Earnhardt’s time without a win has grown to 140 races dating back to Michigan in 2008.

Earnhardt’s back to try again Sunday night and thinks he’s got as strong a car as he had a year ago. Earnhardt won the Sprint Showdown at last week’s All-Star race and will start 12th.

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