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“We’ve been carrying momentum for a good solid year now,” Earnhardt said. “We started the year off this year off really good. We just had a lot of problems since then and just struggled to get good finishes. We are all right. We know what we need to do. Confidence is there. All the fans can rest assured we feel like we are on the right track.”

That’s a lot of fans considering Earnhardt has long ruled NASCAR’s most popular driver for a decade.

They hope to be there again cheering him on _ at the track, at home, on Twitter _ this week at Michigan. Or Sonoma. Kentucky. Wherever.

“They’re clicking,” Johnson said. “They’re doing a great job.”

Earnhardt expects to keep rolling straight into Michigan. Earnhardt’s 143 races between wins was the sixth-longest streak in Sprint Cup history. It was the 19th Cup victory of Earnhardt’s career and second in 159 starts for Hendrick Motorsports. He had 17 victories in 291 races for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

He wasn’t won since Michigan. But Earnhardt followed Michigan last year with three fourth-place finishes over five races and only a concussion that kept him out of two Chase races truly ended his championship hopes.

“It’s good to be able to run good again,” Earnhardt said.

Mix in a little of last year’s successes at upcoming tracks with a dash of this year’s contending runs and Earnhardt just might find himself yet feted in Victory Lane. Or maybe _ try not to get too excited just yet Junior Nation _ walk up to the banquet to deliver his speech as series champion.

Now if only Johnson would just get out of his way.

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Follow Dan Gelston on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APGelston