LONG POND, Pa. -- One driver is always judged better than another "on paper."
Earnhardt felt bad for Keselowski at Pocono Raceway, but he feels pretty good about winning his first race at Pocono in 29 tries and winning for the second time this season, the first time he has won more than once since 2004.
After having lost some races because of strange circumstances, Earnhardt was happy to have one go his way. And friends with Keselowski or not, he made it clear it's every driver for themself down the stretch of a race.
"Well, he knew I wasn't going to [help him get the paper off his grille]," Earnhardt said in a Victory Lane interview on TV. "I mean, I got to try to win the race. We had a little temperature on our car too at the end. I don't know if we had something on the grille. Brad definitely had the better car and I am definitely owning up to that, but we won the race.
"We are definitely going to enjoy it. It goes into the books and helps us toward the Chase. We were there all day running great. We had a fast car, just never really got that track position until the end. You've got to be there and we were.
"Somebody had an issue, so we capitalized. I'm real proud of my team and especially [crew chief] Steve Letarte. This is his last year [with me]. I've never won here. I've never been here [in Victory Lane], this is amazing. I can mark this one off."
Keselowski was the class of the field early and he looked like he was going to be the easy winner as the laps wound down. He led four times for a race-high 95 of the 160 laps on the 2.5-mile triangular track. Earnhardt, on the other hand, led three times for 11 laps.
Keselowski still managed to finish second, but as the paper -- suggested to be a hot-dog wrapper -- clung to his car's grille shortly after the final restart with 10 laps to go, he related back to his team that his engine temperature was rising precipitously.
As he rushed toward the lapped car of Danica Patrick on Lap 155, he saw an opportunity to use the No. 10 as a pick to get his car cleaned off. It didn't work, broke his momentum and Earnhardt zoomed past.
Keselowski tried to mount another challenge, but just didn't have enough car to do it.
"Dale's car was just too good in clean air," Keselowski said. "He was probably better in clean air than we were, so there wasn't a lot I could do at that point."
And Keselowski wasn't going to second-guess his move, either, even though his engine ended up holding up. He was convinced it would have lasted in the lead.
"Oh yeah, we weren't going to make it," he said. "It was already starting to [fail]. It is just one of those deals."
Earnhardt had paper on his grille at the finish as well, but there was less of it compared to Keselowski's No. 2 car. And as Letarte pointed out in his postrace interview, having paper on the grille can actually help with downforce and give a car more speed -- as long as the engine doesn't blow up.