Dale Earnhardt Jr. on struggles: 'I'm clearly disappointed ... but it's time to own it'

ByBob Pockrass ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dale Earnhardt Jr.was frustrated even before getting caught up in a crash Sunday at Dover International Speedway. And he gave a blunt assessment of his team's progress after the race.

In audio posted Monday as part of the weekly "The Dale Jr Download" on his "Dirty Mo Radio" web channel, Earnhardt couldn't hide his frustration.

"We have a problem, Houston. It's time to start understanding how severe this situation is and really get to owning it," he said about what the Dover performance told him.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver said that sooner or later, the organization will pick up the performance, and that he has confidence in his team and in crew chief Greg Ives.

"I'm clearly disappointed," Earnhardt said. "All of the guys on the team are in the same boat, and all the guys on the team are also very positive. You have to be for us to be able to get better -- we all have got to work together. We know we can do it. I believe in all my guys. I believe in Greg and 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 been working hard. But we've got to look ourselves in the mirror and really get to it and figure out what's going on."

Earnhardt's comments came after a weekend that appeared to start well at Dover as he was second in the first practice, which earned him a spot on the front row for the race when qualifying was rained out. But he was ninth in the first practice Saturday and 25th in the final practice. He said the team changed just about everything on the car overnight before the race and still struggled with balance issues and not having enough front grip.

"That wasn't worth a s---," he said. "We didn't have a good weekend. I ain't going to sugarcoat it."

While Dover has long been a source of frustration for Earnhardt, it has been the past four weeks without a top-10 finish, which dropped him from sixth to 11th in the standings, that has him upset.

"It's obvious to us who is doing good and who is not," Earnhardt said, referring to the Joe Gibbs Racing cars. "We understand that we have lost a little bit of something, especially these last four, five weeks have been really miserable.

"We haven't had a fast car at any of the races, even Talladega where we thought we were going to be great -- we went in there and goofed it up. We have got a lot of work to do."

Earnhardt has led laps in just two of the first 12 races this year and said that even if the team makes the Chase the way it is running, that wouldn't be good enough for him.

"We definitely aren't the team we were the last few years," he said. "We have to figure out what is going on, how we're getting beat. ... I'm disappointed, team is mad, I'm mad, the fans are mad. We can't sit here and [complain] about it. We're going to go to work."