Dale Earnhardt Jr. wanted to make one thing perfectly clear in his latest “Dale Jr. Download” podcast that came out Tuesday afternoon.
Sitting 21st in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings five races into the 2017 season, he knows his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team has work to do. But stop suggesting that they need to make wholesale changes, or even minor ones, within his team to do it.
“We obviously understand, because we’re living it, that our car needs a little more speed,” said Earnhardt, who returned this season after missing the final 18 races of last season because of a concussion. “We’re working hard, trying to dig and find our weaknesses and find the speed that we need in the car to make them drive better. We’re working hard – and we’ve worked hard to this point – but it’s not good enough and we know it.
“But there is an unusual amount of I won’t say criticism, but I will say concern, on social media. I stay pretty close to what our supporters are saying on social media. … But one of the things that pisses me off, I guess, is when they talk about the pit crew, or my crew, or my crew chief. You’ll see a tweet every once in a while where they’ll say change this, get a new guy here, get rid of that guy, change this here. This is my team, you know? And you’re talking about my family.”
And Earnhardt insisted he’s going to battle this season with the family that he’s already got.
“It’s not supposed to be easy,” Earnhardt added on the podcast. “I’ve worked with this pit crew for a couple years now. We’ve all gotten really close and I’ve seen them perform extremely well, and I know they can. That’s why I believe in them. So that’s a little frustrating when you see people be so quick to jump to conclusions or to say what changes need to be made.
“We’re all very close and communicate with each other throughout the week. We’re gonna work on this together and get it right with who we have.”
Earnhardt’s best finish thus far this season was a 14th two weeks ago at Phoenix.
He finished 16th last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway after getting sent to the rear of the field for the start of the race because of a cut tire that occurred sometime between the end of qualifying and pre-race inspection on the morning of the race – an infraction tied to NASCAR’s new decree that drivers must start races on the same tires they qualified on.
“I don’t like the rule,” Earnhardt said. “It was frustrating to wake up to that news in the morning (on Sunday).”
gallery: Dale Earnhardt Jr. uses social media to call out counterfeit memorabilia