LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. put a handy twist on his Victory Lane party.
After he popped champagne, was doused in beer and snapped selfies, Earnhardt reached for the appropriate tool for a bash this big.
Earnhardt could have used it to clean up the mess around him. But it was much more fun hoisting it high over his head in celebration. He needed it after he completed a season sweep at Pocono Raceway, the third win in a season that has served as a career renaissance for NASCAR’s most popular driver.
“Everything about life right now has been great,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt now holds the No. 1 seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The legion of Junior Nation fans roared when Earnhardt stormed ahead of the pack off the final restart with three laps left for the lead. His third win, he also won the Daytona 500, tied him for the most in Sprint Cup this season.
Earnhardt held off the hard-charging Kevin Harvick to become the first driver to sweep both races at the track since Denny Hamlin in 2006.
“It’s not a bad spot to be in,” Earnhardt said. “But definitely the pressure’s on that last restart, when you got Kevin lining up beside you. I knew how confident Kevin was going to be going into turn one and I had to have that same confidence in my car.”
He tweeted “Lookin for a broom” last week when he landed in Pocono.
He found one in Victory Lane.
“This group all really enjoys each other,” Earnhardt said. “We want to see everybody happy.”
They had tons of fun inside the Pocono media center.
Steve Letarte acted hurt when his nameplate didn’t have the same three winner’s stickers that were on Earnhardt’s card. Earnhardt also brought a Make-A-Wish Foundation teen to the podium and made sure he’d have his own namecard and stickers.
“This is my buddy, Chris. Does he get one,” Earnhardt said.
They all got their stickers — the same ones applied to the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Earnhardt has his most wins since he won six times in 2004. His three wins are one shy of his combined total from 2005-2013. His win Sunday was the 22nd of a career still without a Cup championship.
Earnhardt and Letarte are clicking in their final season together. Hendrick Motorsports named Greg Ives the crew chief for 2015 once Letarte heads to the broadcast booth.
“I think he’s going to make me look bad,” Letarte said. “Mr. Hendrick has a remarkable talent of matching drivers with crew chiefs.”
Harvick, who clinched a spot in the Chase, was second, followed by Joey Logano, Clint Boywer and Greg Biffle.