Dale Jr. feels he's at 'end of my rope'
CONCORD, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't sound like a driver who was sure Lance McGrew should be his crew chief in 2010.
In fact, he didn't sound like a driver who was sure about anything: "I'm about to the end of my rope," he said.
NASCAR's most popular driver, who for months has been upbeat about the progress he was making under McGrew, appeared as low as he's been all season Friday at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"Yeah, I feel like I don't have any control, you know," Earnhardt said before practice for Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "[Rick Hendrick has] 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. I don't know what to do."
We were top 15 in practice and we go out to qualify and we were one of the worst cars here. ... It's like really encouraging one day and the next day it's equally discouraging. That gets really old. I'm about to the end of my rope on it.” -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt isn't in favor of switching crew chiefs during the last six races, but he didn't give McGrew the ringing endorsement he has in the past. Hendrick recently said he planned to meet with his driver about the crew chief following this weekend's race.
"I don't have the credentials to make the call," said Earnhardt, who made the switch to McGrew at midseason after a struggling start with Tony Eury Jr. "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 because it's fun hanging out with him.
"Hell, you don't even know if Lance wants to do it. Hell, I wouldn't want it. It's a tough job."
Earnhardt said whomever he works with needs to be a dictator like Tony Eury Sr., who was his crew chief for 16 of his 18 victories. Asked if McGrew wasn't that type of crew chief, Earnhardt said, "I didn't say that."
"I just don't think I'm the guy to leave that decision up to, because I wouldn't make the right one," he continued. "There's probably better people to make it, especially in the organization. There's a lot of smart people there. "I'm just waiting for somebody to make the call. Just put the damn team together and say this is what you've got and this is what you're going to do next year."
Earnhardt added that Eury Sr. would have no interest in moving from his job as the crew chief for the No. 88 Nationwide Series team at JR Motorsports.
"I don't think Tony Sr. would be interested in working in the Cup series," Earnhardt said. "It's not a very fun place. It takes a lot to be here. It's really, really ... for anybody to work in it around this garage it's really frustrating and really hard."
I'm just waiting for somebody to make the call. Just put the damn team together and say this is what you've got and this is what you're going to do next year.” -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
They lead laps on almost a weekly basis. Earnhardt has led a lap only twice in the past 21 races, and has led only 137 all year.
His frustration hit a new level Sunday at California when he wrecked after having a tire go down following a bump by Ryan Newman. He finished 25th with a car he felt capable of a top-10.
"I was really upset," Earnhardt said. "I was really, really upset."
Friday night's qualifying effort, 39th, didn't make things better.
"We were top 15 in practice and we go out to qualify and we were one of the worst cars here," Earnhardt said. "We don't know why or have any answer for it. All the other cars fought back fine and backed their cars up in practice. We weren't even close. We looked ridiculous.
"It's like really encouraging one day and the next day it's equally discouraging. That gets really old. I'm about to the end of my rope on it."
Earnhardt said he's not ready for the season to be over because he likes coming to the track. He's also tired of riding out what has been one of the worst streaks of his career.
"There comes a point where you don't want to ride it out no more," Earnhardt said. "So you just have had enough. It's been a long year."
Having several good tracks for him -- Martinsville, Talladega and Texas -- coming up doesn't give him reason for optimism.
"No. I just want to run better," Earnhardt said. "We're not running good enough. Even when we're creeping inside the top 10 like we were last week it ain't good enough. It's really frustrating. I don't know what the answer is."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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