Sports

Hendrick, Childress say Dale Jr. will get on track

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. is frustrated, angry, discouraged and disillusioned.

None of that surprises his Hendrick Motorsports team owner, Rick Hendrick.

And neither Hendrick nor team owner Richard Childress - two people among the closest to Earnhardt - believe the best of Earnhardt's career is behind him.

"I don't care who you are, every driver that I've had drive for me has had a period somewhere in that stretch where their confidence is shaken. That's just normal," Hendrick said.

"I mean, I feel the same way about trying to know what to do to fix things sometimes. It's like, maybe I need to ask somebody else."

Right now, any input is welcomed.

Earnhardt, 34, is in his worst Cup season. In 31 starts, he has two top-five and five top-10 finishes and is 22nd in the standings. He has one victory in the past three seasons and his average finish of 22.9 is the worst of his career.

Last weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway, he unloaded his frustrations during media interviews.

"I've been riding it out, but there comes a point where you don't want to ride it out any more," he said. "I've just had enough. It's been a long year."

Hendrick was asked about Earnhardt's comments after teammate Jimmie Johnson won the race and solidified his position as points leader.

"Sometimes when you feel like you're snake bit, it's hard to show up and try to pretend that everything is great," Hendrick said. "But I can tell you this, I met with those guys and I'm as committed as I know how to be, and we're all committed to each other, and we're just going to keep digging.

"I told them this can't last. We've got too many smart people over there to not fix it."

The team has been closer to success than Earnhardt's comments might have led on. He led 41 laps at Kansas but his engine blew up. He was running in the top 10 at California when he got caught up in a wreck late in the race,

Although he qualified poorly for the Banking 500, it was difficult to know what kind of day Earnhardt might have had because his No. 88 Chevrolet developed a transmission problem.

"Nothing will help a driver's confidence any more than a couple of back-to-back runs and good finishes," Hendrick said. "He knows he can do it, and we know he can do it. It's just a - it's frustration, and it's just (he's) beginning to doubt.

"Everybody doubts everything, and that's just normal."

Childress, who was the car owner for the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., said he remains confident the best of Earnhardt Jr.'s career is ahead.

"Everybody's got their expectations so high. And when you don't fulfill those expectations, people think you're not there," Childress said.

"But Junior can still drive a race car. He can compete. He can win. And he will win a championship some day; it's just a matter of going through a few of these peaks and valleys."

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