ShareThis Page
Sports

Earnhardt struggling through another season

| Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009

CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit rock bottom during his last trip to Lowe's Motor Speedway. He struggled with his car, feuded with his crew chief and finished a season-low 40th in one of the most embarrassing weekends of his career.

Team owner Rick Hendrick fired crew chief Tony Eury Jr. three days after that May debacle, and things were supposed to turn around with some fresh leadership at Earnhardt's No. 88 team.

It hasn't happened.

Little has changed, at least in terms of results, in the four-plus months since. Back at LMS for tonight's race, Earnhardt is slogging through a 51-race winless streak dating back to 2008, his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.

He's 22nd in the standings, has five top-10s and five DNFs this season, and hasn't finished higher than 17th in the last six races.

"It's, like, really encouraging one day, and the next day it's equally discouraging, and that gets really old," Earnhardt said Friday. "I'm about to the end of my rope on it."

Earnhardt seemed deflated as he spoke candidly about a season he has repeatedly characterized as the worst of his career. He said earlier this season that his struggles and the emotional split with Eury, his cousin, weighed heavily on his large family, and Earnhardt doesn't think he's mentally strong enough to weather another year this bad.

He could stomach it if there were light at the end of the tunnel, but Earnhardt didn't seem very encouraged about the progress of his team — particularly when teammates Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon hold three of the top five spots in the standings and are all in contention for the Sprint Cup title.

The three Hendrick cars were predictably stout in yesterday's qualifying — Johnson and Martin swept the front row — but Earnhardt was 39th and said his team looked "ridiculous."

Even worse, he doesn't have any solutions.

"I've been riding it out, but there comes a point where you don't want to ride it out no more. You've just had enough," he said. "It's been so low. The highs have not been very high, and the lows have been terribly low. That's hard to want get back up and try again the next week when you take such a beating. I don't know what else to do."

• Denny Hamlinis over last week's crash at Auto Club Speedway when he tried to cut off a hard-charging Juan Pablo Montoya. He just wishes everybody else was too.

"I was doing everything I could and just bit myself," Hamlin said. "It's just frustrates you for about two days and then you get over it and then you hear someone say, 'Hey, man, sorry about last weekend.' Then you're like, 'Well, I forgot about it until you said something.' "

• Rusty Wallace has no problem with the five inaugural inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The former champion does wonder if the first Hall class should have been bigger than Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Sr.

"How the heck can you just take five?" Wallace said. "When you pick Junior (Johnson), you want to pick (David) Pearson, you want to pick (Cale) Yarborough, you want to pick Bobby Allison."

• Brad Keselowski is waiting for Penske Racing to hire a crew chief for him in 2010, but he's been very pleased with the level of interest for the job. Keselowski said employees from Richard Petty Motorsports have inquired about possibilities with the No. 12 team.

• The FIA has asked the two candidates running to succeed Max Mosley as president of motor racing's governing body to avoid "negative campaigning." There will be a vote Oct. 23 to determine the winner between former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt of France and ex-world rally champion Ari Vatanen of Finland.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me