Dale Earnhardt Jr.: ‘These last four or five weeks have been really miserable’

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered a frank assessment of his season and team on his weekly podcast, noting that recent performances show that “we’ve got a problem, Houston. It’s time to understand how severe this situation is and really get to owning it, try to figure something out.’’

Earnhardt is 11th in points with no wins and just five top-10 finishes in 12 races. This is the worst he’s been in the points at this time of the season since 2010 when he was 16th and went on to finish 21st, failing to make the Chase.

“If we get into this Chase, we can’t run running like this,’’ Earnhardt said on The Dale Jr. Download. “That ain’t going to work. Clearly disappointed. All the guys on the team are in the same boat. All the guys on the team also are very positive. You have to be for us to be able to get better. We’ve all got to work together.

“We know we can do it. I believe in all my guys. I believe in (crew chief) Greg (Ives). They believe in me, and we’ll figure it out. We’ve been down before, but it’s time to own it. It’s time to get after it.

“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and really get to it here, figure out what’s going on and what we need to be doing, start really trying to find some speed and some answers.’’

Since back-to-back runner-up finishes in April at Texas and Bristol, Earnhardt has finished no better than 13th the last four races. He has struggled in qualifying most of the season. He has three top-five starts, with two at restrictor-plate tracks and one last weekend at Dover, when qualifying was rained out and the lineup was set by speed in practice.

Earnhardt cited his Kansas run earlier this month as unsettling.

“It was disappointing to run 15th at Kansas,’’ Earnhardt said on his podcast. “I know our fans are really disappointed, and they see the Gibbs guys doing well. It’s obvious to us who’s doing good and who’s not.

“We understand that we have lost a little bit of something. These last four or five weeks have been really miserable. We haven’t had a fast car at any of the races. Even at Talladega where we thought we were going to be great, we went in there and goofed it up. We’ve got a lot of work to do.’’

Earnhardt said isn’t not just one area that is hindering the team.

“We definitely aren’t the team we were the last few years,’’ he said on his podcast. “We’ve got to figure out what’s going on and how we’re getting beat. I see a few things on our cars and on other cars that are out of our control. There is only so much my guys can do in the garage and before we go through the tech line. It’s a battle every weekend to try to figure out how much work you can do to your car.’’

Earnhardt’s team received its third warning last weekend at Dover after failing the Laser Inspection Station twice before the race. His team will lose pit stall selection for a race with the next warning.

With 14 points races left before the Chase begins, Earnhardt knows there’s time to improve.

“This All-Star weekend coming up ain’t going to be the answer to all of our problems, but it’s an opportunity to work on some of them,’’ said Earnhardt, who won the 2000 All-Star Race but has never won the Coca-Cola 600. “I’ll be honest with you, I’d rather win (next week’s) 600 a thousand times more than the All-Star race. Running good and running better throughout the rest of the year is much more important to me than stumbling into a million bucks on this All-Star weekend. If we come out of the All-Star race winners but don’t understand how to go into the 600 and be competitive, it does us no good.’’

Earnhardt had more to say about his season and detailed his frustrations with last weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway. To hear all that he said, go to his podcast at Dirty Mo Radio.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s totals after 12 races in recent seasons

2016

0 wins, 4 top fives, 5 top 10s and 11th in points

2015

1 win, 7 top fives, 8 top 10s and fourth in points

2014

1 win, 6 top fives, 7 top 10s and fifth in points

2013

0 wins, 3 top fives, 7 top 10s and sixth in points

2012

0 wins, 4 top fives, 9 top 10s and fourth in points

2011

0 wins, 2 top fives, 6 top 10s and fourth in points

2010

0 wins, 1 top five, 3 top 10s and 16th in points