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Dale Jr.'s Take: And it ain't pretty

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Mr. Popularity....but not Mr. Happy (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't had much to talk about this year, much to celebrate.
   But Friday, well, the sport's biggest name – still winless this season, and sporting just one tour victory over the past three years – was fired up and ripping hot.
   So, Jr., what's the deal here? Your teammates, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin are all battling for the championship, and you're in a slump.  
   "I don't really know, I just don't know," Earnhardt says.
    "We struggle as a team sometimes.
     "I've felt pretty good about how we've run. But we came off of turn four at California (last weekend) and Ryan Newman hit me in the left-rear quarterpanel and knocked the valve-stem out of the tire….and I had a flat. Going down the front straight. And I couldn't go nowhere because I had guys on the inside of me, Elliott Sadler and Matt Kenseth. They didn't know I had a flat."
   "That was frustrating," Earnhardt said. "And I was really upset.
    "I was really, really upset."
   It's been like that too frequently this season. Just when Earnhardt and crew chief Lance McGrew get something good going, something bad happens.
    Here? Thursday evening, during the brief practice, Earnhardt was top-15….and when it came time to qualify "we were one of the worst cars.
   "We don't know why, or have any answer for it.
    "We didn't even get close. We looked ridiculous.
     "So -- it's really encouraging one day…and then the next day it's equally discouraging.
    "That gets really old. I'm about to the end of my rope."

   It's at times like this that Dale Jr. misses Dale Sr. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Well, about this moment Earnhardt is ready to open the window and scream 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.'
    "I've been riding it out…but I think there comes a point where you don't want to ride it out no more," he says with a laugh.
    "You just have had enough.
     "It's been a long year.
     "I really don't want the year to be over with, because I like going to the track 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 it's hard to want to get back up and try again next the week, when you take such a beating.
      "But I don't know what else to do."
    And now he's starting to get upset over the continuing setbacks: "I was thinking about that last night -- I really don't know what the logical next step would be, because we seem to be getting better. But even getting better is not satisfying me at all."
    And it's almost 2010….
    Who will run the team? What's the team roster going to look like? He says he's waiting on boss man Rick Hendrick to make the call.
   "There are a lot of smart people around there, and I'm just waiting on somebody to make the call, man," Earnhardt said.
    "Just put the damned team together and say 'This is what you've got, and this is what you're going to do.'"
   Earnhardt says he likes hanging with crew chief McGrew and wants him back in charge next season. But "Hell, you don't even know if Lance wants to do it," Earnhardt concedes.
    "I wouldn't want it.
    "It's a tough job."

   Pops: Tony Eury Sr. (L), celebrating with up-and-comer Brad Keselowski (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Earnhardt had his most success when Tony Eury Sr. was running his operation and Tony Eury Jr. (Earnhardt's cousin) was calling the shots.
    But, Earnhardt says, putting that old band back together isn't in the cards.
   "I don't think Tony Sr. would be interested in working in the Cup series," Earnhardt says. "It's not a very fun place.
    "It takes a lot to be here. It's really frustrating and really hard, and you really have to commit yourself.
    "He's been out of it, and he's seen that's not all there is to life…and he has fun where he's at.
     "So I don't think he'd accept the opportunity."
    Earnhardt says he feels like he's just going in circles. "Rick has put me in a great position -- but I haven't made the most of it. For whatever reason we're just not getting it done."
   And then there's the Danica Patrick distraction. The Indy-car star has talked about signing on with Earnhardt's own sideline NASCAR Nationwide operation next season, in making a slow transition from open-wheel to NASCAR.
    But Earnhardt says Patrick is in Europe, after the end of the Indy-car season last weekend: "We can't do a whole lot until she gets back."
    And there's also Talladega coming up. Earnhardt has legions of fans at that track, but he hasn't given them much to celebrate lately.
    And Earnhardt doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic about getting down to Alabama. First, that flipping finish to the spring race is still on everyone's minds: "You all know what sells tickets," Earnhardt says. "Nobody got hurt….but I don't want to go flipping across the finish line every week."
   Talladega has raised its fencing and NASCAR has gone to a slightly smaller restrictor plate to slow cars down.
     "Raising the fences is good…but cars go through them fences, parts go through them," Earnhardt said. "And it seems like the smaller the plate, the more we wreck, in my opinion.
    "The smaller you make the plate, the more on top of each other we race…and the more we are going to wreck.
    "Every time that plate gets smaller, it gets more dangerous, in my opinion.
   "The smaller you make the plate, you can't pass. You run three or four-freaking wide, and if you are in the second or third lane you are boxed in and have nowhere to go. You can't do anything about your position but sit there and ride, and hope that maybe you can push your lane forward. And that sucks. That's boring."
   Well, at least Earnhardt himself isn't boring at the moment…..And given the championship runaway his teammates have launched, maybe it is time for him to be asking some heavy questions.


  Maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Teresa Earnhardt (L, at Wednesday's Hall of Fame) should have worked things out and stuck it out at DEI (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Earnhardt says he feels like

Earnhardt says he feels like he's just going in circles.
Is that a racing pun, Mike? ;)

Just try to slip one in every

Just try to slip one in every now and then, to see who's paying attention

The obviously very frustrated

The obviously very frustrated Dale seems to work best with specific individuals and despite working for Hendrick, this season has been characterized by errors at the wrong time (pits, tactics on the track, bad spotting, etc). Dale also seems to have lost confidence in himself even though he has won many races in the past. Hendrick needs to take command here and strongly encourage Tony Senior to take over as crew chief next year for Dale. Tony Senior, with whom Dale was very successful but naturally who is reluctant to go back to Cup every week, would be doing Dale a huge personal favor by helping Dale out to get him back in victory circle consistently.

"It's time Hendrick took over

"It's time Hendrick took over and changed Junior's crew chief...."

At what point are people going to figure out that the problem is Junior, not his crew chiefs? And Junior, your best races are the restrictor plate races, so man up and stop whining about "it's boring to be fighting five-abreast" and like that.

it's that damn green car.

it's that damn green car. LOL

i don't think tony sr is the answer to juniors problems.

I remember a time when Jeff was havin a pretty big slump and he's still not back to where he used to be. it takes time and I think Lance has the ability to put Jr back in winners circle but at the same time they need a little luck on their side. so that Jr can get some of that cofidence back.
Also I think he's tried so hard to be his own Man instead of being compared to his father that it's hurt his racing.

Junior to hell with what the all think. Get out there and race. Use the bumper if need be. No more mister nice guy.....

i like that approach: No more

i like that approach: No more Mr. Nice Guy.....
Get rid of that crappy green; paint it black.

I agree Jr. needs to quit

I agree Jr. needs to quit letting everyone push him around. Be more agressive. Push back.

I am NOT a Junior hater..nor

I am NOT a Junior hater..nor I am a Junior fan...to me besides being the son of "Senior"...he has just been another driver. I was an Alan K. fan..and have watched Tony S. since his Indy days. I LOVE to watch the races...almost any type racing..and enjoy the drivers personalities..that's probably why I was drawn to Alan..and to Tony..they are "their own men" and never really march to the beat of the "NASCAR drone" drum. I think that is why I find Jimmie J. so offensive..and had a hard time with Jeff G. and Carl E....drones...And..my point here is part of my disinterest in Junior has always been the "leg up on adoration and fame" he got from his daddy..not his fault...but he has ridden it..ridden it as far as he could without putting much of his own sweat into it. WHY do we feel like he has to be his daddy? WHY will nothing less do? Why is it not good enough that he is just Junior? There are plenty of other drivers out there who have driven as long or longer then Junior and only have one or two wins..and they are not the talk around the water cooler. There have been been other father/son duos with different levels of success and also brother duos who haven't had equal success on the track. Look at Jimmie Johnson and his brother....how's it looking for the Truex brothers..looks to me like the younger brother might outdo his older sibling once he gets to NASCAR. So..if you adore Junior..that's great..but you should take him for who he his and let the rest go..

His best days are behind him.

His best days are behind him. The inheritance of his name has run out. He is no better than the most average of driver each week, and that is his future.

Ya'll need to stop with the

Ya'll need to stop with the Crew Chief crap, Junior just go out and race...run the laps one at a time forget luck and make your own...

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Jr just needs to learn how to

Jr just needs to learn how to drive the COT. All the true dirt racers took to it, because they can hang out the back end. He needs to test 4 days a week in the off season! Its not a coincidence that he has struggled since the COT came out. Its simple, not a question of his talent, just needs to learn the feel of the car. Big E would have tested 7 days a week if he was going through this!


DATE: OCT. 17, 2009 (334 LAPS, 501 MILES)
CHASSIS CHOICE: Interim crew chief Lance McGrew and the No. 88 engineers will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-521 for this weekend's 500-mile event at Lowe's Motor Speedway. This chassis last was raced to a 27th-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June."
That makes this one of the old chassis that Tony Jr. made based on the specs he took from DEI in 2007. But with HMS making chassis for 6 cars you probably can't expect more than 2 new chassis.
They just said on Race Day that Kevin Harvick wants out of his ride, NOW. Maybe he and Jr. could just switch...? Marybeth

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