WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) - You can't wipe the smile off the face of Dale Earnhardt Jr. these days, not even at a road course.
With five races before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins, Earnhardt is in unfamiliar territory as the series gets set for the second and final road race of the season at Watkins Glen International Sunday. He's perched atop the points standings. A year ago at The Glen, he was 10th, just one point ahead of eventual champion Tony Stewart. The top 10 drivers in the points and two wild-card teams qualify for NASCAR's version of a postseason.
Earnhardt, who has nine top-five finishes and 15 top-10s, leads Matt Kenseth by a scant five points, with Greg Biffle another point back and five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson only eight points behind.
In 12 starts at Watkins Glen, Earnhardt has qualified in the top 10 three times, but still is seeking the first road course win of his career. He has two top-five finishes and three top-10s at The Glen.
A steady rain on Friday forced NASCAR to push back Cup practice until late afternoon and Earnhardt was only 28th fastest. Qualifying for Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 is scheduled for late Saturday morning.
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John Kekis can be followed at http://twitter.com/Greek1947

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