Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs more speed to be a contender

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – To Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 78 Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 42 Chevrolet of Kyle Larson aren’t just in a different zip code.

They’re in a different time zone, figuratively speaking, when it comes to speed on the race track.

“The No. 42 has been really strong all year,” Earnhardt said during a media availability at Watkins Glen International prior to Sunday’s I LOVE NEW YORK 355 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “The No. 78, they are really strong, they are in a different world, man. We want to go out and win races…it is easy to say that, but, damn, we have a lot of speed to find.

“It isn’t like we are going to show up and drive around those (guys). We have some work to do before the end of the year if we want to feel like we can legitimately contend for a win.”

The contrast is even more acute to Earnhardt, who has been struggling to find speed in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet throughout the season.

“We had a little speed earlier in the season, I thought,” Earnhardt said. “We got through Texas, and I felt like that things are where they should be. We have lost a little bit along the way at a few stops. Just losing a little bit here and there.

“We haven’t really developed any speed through the season as we have progressed through the year; we sort of have not found anything additional to what we had at the start of the year. A lot of teams have, and we are sort of playing catch up right now.”

That Earnhardt is competing in his final season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing only adds to the urgency.

“Certainly, if we miss the playoffs, we’re still going to try to win a race,” he said. “We’re still going to show up and try to give it everything we’ve got. There’s nothing worse than leaving the race track feeling like you didn’t try your best or didn’t give everything you had.

“And I certainly ain’t going to finish my last season like that and carry that with me the rest of my life. So we’re going to work hard all the way to the very end, and hopefully we have something to smile about at some point before it’s over with.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.