Earnhardt Jr. unsure changes needed
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HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. says it's not assured that he gets a new crew chief before the 2011 season and that no one person is responsible for this season's failures.
"I'm not certain what's going to happen," NASCAR's most popular driver said after Friday's qualifying for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Earnhardt is 19th in points, having missed the Chase for the second straight year and third time in the past four seasons. He has only three top-5s and eight top-10s a year after recording a career-worst two top-5s and five top-10s.
Earnhardt has only one win since Lance McGrew was named his crew chief in the middle of 2009. He is mired in a career-worst 92-race losing streak.
But Earnhardt believes this season has been better than last year's which he called the worst of his career before this race. He's just not sure what has to happen to turn things around.
"It's pretty obvious we aren't very good and we need to do some things to get better,'' Earnhardt said. "It's obvious that's where we are. I don't think it needs to be over-analyzed or anything like that.''
But Earnhardt has self-analyzed himself recently. He said there was a time he wasn't sure he could handle the disappointment anymore and would crumble mentally.
"The last couple of years have been hard,'' Earnhardt said. "We've been bad. We ain't run good. I ain't run good. It's been real hard to deal with ... I still feel some confidence in what I can do. I guess I'm just glad that's still there, you know?''
Earnhardt said the first half of this season was much better than the second as he had three top-10s in the first eight races. Eighteen races in he was 11th in points and believing he had a shot at the Chase.
But the second half has produced only two top-10s and 11 finishes of 20th or worse.
"Somebody was bringing up some of the things we did at the start of the season,'' said Earnhardt, who finished second in the Daytona 500 and won the pole at the Atlanta spring race. "It seems like such a lifetime ago when we sat on the pole and we ran pretty good at a couple of places.
"I've had some fun. We did get the cars better and we were more competitive this year even though it's still not reasonable. We were better than we were last year.''
Earnhardt said he asked team owner Rick Hendrick to let the season end before making a decision on any potential changes to his team. Even then, Earnhardt doesn't know how much input he'll personally give.
"I've dove into those deals headfirst in the past,'' Earnhardt said. "I'm not doing it this time. I obviously haven't had too good of an effect on the last couple of changes I've made. Maybe I'm not the person to be in there making those kinds of decisions.
"I don't want to have any effect on whatever that decision is. I've enjoyed working with Lance. I've enjoyed working with this team. We try really hard. They try really hard. No one person has failed this season.''
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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