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Earnhardt: 'About to the end of my rope'

Dale Earnhardt Jr reflects on a challenging season in the Sprint Cup – which is pushing him to the limit
Leave something in a pressure cooker long enough, and it's bound to boil over.

A litany of setbacks in a season of frustration has hit critical mass for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who craves a solution to the performance problems of his #88 team but is at a loss when trying to identify possible solutions.

"I'm about to the end of my rope on it," Earnhardt said, after reciting chapter and verse on last week's late wreck at Fontana, Calif., and Thursday night's bewilderingly poor qualifying run at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "I've been riding it out, but I think it comes there comes a point, though, where you don't want to ride it out anymore.

"It's been a long year. I really don't want the year to be over with, because I like going to the racetrack every week and racing, but the last several - well, all year, it's been so low. The 'highs' have been not very high, and the 'lows' have been terribly low. So that's hard to want to get back up and try again the next week, when you take such a beating, but I don't know what else to do."

Earnhardt's frustration came to a head Thursday. The proximate cause was a 39th-place qualifying run - after posting the 13th-fastest time during Sprint Cup practice earlier in the day. Last Sunday, a flat tyre late in the race at Fontana derailed what promised to be a top-ten run. Earnhardt slowed in front of Elliott Sadler, and contact between their two cars ignited a multicar pileup in turn one.

"We come off of turn four at California, and Ryan Newman hit me in the left rear quarter panel and knocked the valve stem out of tyre," said Earnhardt, who retired two laps short of the finish in 25th place. "I had a flat tyre going down the front straightaway, and I couldn't go nowhere, because I had guys on the inside of me. Elliott didn't know that I had a flat, and neither did the #17 (Matt Kenseth) behind him, and when they got to me, I couldn't control my car anymore. I was out of air in the tyre. That was frustrating. I was really upset. I was really, really upset.

"Last night (Thursday) we go out, and we were top 15 in practice, and we went out and tried to qualify, and we're one of the worst cars here. We don't know why or have any answer for it. All the other (Hendrick Motorsports) cars qualified fine, did well, backed their times up in practice, and we didn't even get close. We looked ridiculous last night. So it's like really encouraging one day, and then the next day it's equally discouraging. And that gets really old."

Still unsettled is the matter of Earnhardt's crew chief for next season. Owner Rick Hendrick brought Earnhardt and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. to his organization as a package deal to start the 2008 season. After continued struggles in 2009, Lance McGrew replaced Eury before the May race at Dover. Though the team has shown improvement since then, Earnhardt hasn't finished as well as he has run in most races, and McGrew's status is still a question mark.

"I haven't talked to Rick about it," Earnhardt said of the crew-chief choice. "I don't have the credentials to make the call. If I told you that I wanted to be with Lance next year, I wouldn't be telling you that out of my knowledge of expertise and talent. I'd be telling you because it's fun hanging out with him. Whoever I work with needs to be dictated. The most success I had was with Tony (Eury) Sr. (Eury Jr.'s father and Earnhardt's long-time crew chief at Dale Earnhardt Inc.), and you know how he runs his ship.

"I don't think I'm the guy to leave that decision up to, because I wouldn't make the right one - or there's probably better people to make it, especially in the organisation, man. There's a lot of smart people around there. I'm just waiting for somebody to make the call, man. Just put the damn team together and say 'This is what you got; this is what you're going to do next year.' I'm just kind of waiting on that to happen."

As he waits, the frustration mounts.

"We just need to run better, and it's not happening," Earnhardt said. "It's not happening fast enough. … Even when we're creeping inside the top ten like we were last week, it's not good enough. It's really frustrating.

"I feel like I don't have any control. Rick's put me in a great position, but I haven't made the most of it, or for whatever reason, we're just not getting it done."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



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Dale Earnhardt Jr - Hendrick Motorsport   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, applies the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits along with the rest of the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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BigZipper

October 18, 2009 2:16 PM

Dale Jr, stop blaming everything and everyone and knuckle down and get some work done. You may want to quit smoking and start working out, that may help your race fitness and in turn your results.



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