After his qualifying laps Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made light of a recent story in the tabloid National Enquirer, which described him as a "train wreck" headed for an emotional breakdown.

"I got all tore up about how we qualified (Oct. 15) in Charlotte, and I got in front of (the media) and sort of really just said how I feel," Earnhardt explained. "But a couple of the metaphors I used, such as 'end of my rope,' kind of put me within range of those guys (the Enquirer), and they kind of played target practice on that.

"I actually researched online how many people had sued the Enquirer and how many people had won, but, reading through my article, they sort of twist the words to where you can't ... they sort of twist the sentences around to where they're not really calling you out hard. They're worded so that you can't really go after it. I don't know. It really doesn't bother me that much. A lot of people say any publicity is good publicity.

"We're 25th in points, and we're still relevant for the National Enquirer, so..."

Admittedly, Earnhardt hasn't had the kind of season he had expected in his second year at Hendrick Motorsports, but he has seen positive signs with the addition of crew chief Lance McGrew. Within only Sunday's Ford 400 left before the series adjourns for the winter, Earnhardt isn't ready for the season to end.

"We don't need to say, 'All right, let's get this year over with and get ready for next year,'" he said. "We need to race some more. So I wish this year wasn't over. But unfortunately it is, and we have to try during the offseason to fix what we can, without being able to go to the racetrack and seeing if that's working.

"Hopefully, when we show up at Daytona, we've made the right calls. It's going to be a challenge for us, but I feel real, real confident in Lance, and I feel good about my guys - and I hope that the racing gods are kind to us when next year comes around."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News