Dale Earnhardt Jr. says car “damn well” should have qualified better

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. failed to advance from the first round of qualifying Saturday and will start 26th for Sunday night’s Southern 500 on NBC.

It ties his worst starting spot of the season. He started 26th at Richmond.

“I don’t know why the car didn’t drive good enough to run in the top 20 for qualifying,” Earnhardt told NASCAR Talk after meeting with crew chief Greg Ives on pit road after the first round. “It damn well should have. We’ve got enough resources, enough people. There’s no reason that that car shouldn’t go out and be faster than that.”

Earnhardt has struggled throughout the weekend at Darlington Raceway.

“We were awful when we showed up,” Earnhardt said. “We really didn’t get the car reasonable until the end of the practice (Friday). We were just way off. Car was plowing. I don’t think anybody liked the way their cars drove, but we were just slow, no speed, car was way too tight. We never really got it figured out. We got a little bit of direction at the end of practice. We just need another two hours practice.”

Earnhardt saw some signs of progress late in Friday’s final practice session after struggling with the car’s balance much of the day.

“I think we had a pretty good direction (Friday) with the race trim,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge. Do we have a fast car? No, not really, but it’s OK, it’s good. If we can just be smart, get a little track position, probably have a good run.”