TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s initial reaction to another runner-up finish is a smile and the feeling that second's not so bad.
The what-ifs don't really play through his mind until later, when he ponders everything he might have done differently to finish that one tantalizing spot higher.
Earnhardt had to settle for his fourth second-place finish this year Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway when Jamie McMurray captured the victory in a race finished under caution after a last-lap crash.
"I'm not going to complain too much because I'm driving some of the best cars in the garage, and got some of the best engines," Earnhardt said. "Being at a place like that, it really means a lot.
"It's frustrating because the worst part about it really is you go home and you'll spend months thinking about what you could have done to not be second. That's the worst part about it. Actually, the process of it happening and doing it isn't that bad. I'm kind of happy with being competitive, and it was a good result — until you'll go back and think of the million things you could have tried different."
If the fan favorite had a final maneuver to get him past McMurray, he never got to make it.
The result was another close call. Earnhardt has won a personal-best five times at Talladega, including a string of four straight that ended in the spring of 2003. He won again the following year but now his drought at the huge tri-oval has reached 18 races.
Having led laps at 25 of his 28 career starts at Talladega is small comfort. So are the four second-place finishes.
Earnhardt figures his No. 88 Chevrolet has been strong enough to win recent races. He's been second in two of the last five races with four top-10s.