LONG POND, Pa. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. is used to the questions.
Every time his on-track performance falls off — for whatever reason — it seems everyone wants to know why.
Take Friday's media session at Pocono Raceway. After three second-place finishes in the first eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races of 2016, Earnhardt has failed to crack the top 10 in five subsequent events and slipped from sixth to 13th in points.
"I've been racing in this series a long time, and I've been asked that question dozens and dozens of times, like 'Where do you need to improve?' — no matter what team I was racing for, no matter what year is was," Earnhardt said. "Even if you knew you wouldn't tell. I mean you can't say 'Them guys in the body shop, they need to get going.' You're not going to throw anybody under the bus."
In any case, everybody seems to be behind Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Toyotas this season, even Earnhardt's powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports team.
"You're looking at everything they're doing," he said of other teams. "You watch a guy real close all weekend make changes and go through the process of the whole weekend, and nothing really stands out."
Cup qualifying: Brad Keselowski earned the pole for Sunday's Axalta 400 at Pocono, leading a front row sweep for Team Penske with a lap of 181.726 mph in qualifying on the 21/2 mile track. He edged Joey Logano (181.400).
IndyCar: Series leader Simon Pagenaud earned the pole for today's Duel in Detroit Race 1 on the city's streets. His lap of 1 minute, 14.9166 seconds led Team Penske's sweep of the top three with Helio Castroneves second and Juan Pablo Montoya third to kick off a weekend doubleheader.
NHRA: Ron Capps set a track record and led the first day of Funny Car qualifying at the New England Nationals in Epping, N.H., with a run of 3.865 seconds at 325.92 mph. Steve Torrence led Top Fuel and Jason Line topped Pro Stock.