Despite the disappointment, Earnhardt and Letarte clearly have their program figured out. They won on a restrictor-plate track (Daytona), finished second on a short track (Phoenix) and came oh-so-close to reaching Victory Lane on a mile-and-a-half -- and intermediate tracks make up the bulk of the Cup schedule.
In other words, the Earnhardt-Letarte Farewell Tour -- Letarte is heading to the broadcast booth after this season -- should be feared moving forward.
We knew the Penske gang had the setups figured out for the new elimination-style qualifying format heading into Sunday's race. It had also swept the front row a week earlier at Phoenix, with Keselowski taking the pole and Logano starting second. They finished third and fourth, respectively, in that race.
On Sunday, Team Penske ran the table.
"The poles the [past] two weekends really have made a huge difference," Penske said. "Joey has stepped up now, and we really have two great drivers, not only for today but long term when you look at our team and the average age.
"To me it was a rewarding weekend, realizing that the way the rules are, to have a driver that has won a race, that really almost qualifies him, I think, for the Chase, especially after the tough year he had last year."
Of course, a little luck never hurts.
Penske said he couldn't believe the amount of publicity his hole-in-one attracted. His thoughts were with the man -- William Clay Ford Sr. died at 88 on Sunday -- who once helped run the company that backs Penske's team.
"We know we lost William Clay Ford today, a patriarch of the Ford family, someone who obviously has meant so much to Detroit, the automobile business on a worldwide basis and certainly to the 'big three,' and I take my hat off and my thoughts and prayers to his family.
"It's ironic: He and I joined Augusta the same time back many years ago, and to think today we won this race. So I'm going to give this race to William Clay Ford."