Disappointed Dale Jr. to fans: 'I hate we're all going through it'
The past few days undoubtedly haven't been too fun for Junior Nation after watching hero Dale Earnhardt Jr. fail to advance into the next round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Earnhardt, who needed to win Sunday's race at Talladega to transfer into the Eliminator Round and keep his title hopes alive, finished 31st after a late tap from Greg Biffe sent the No. 88 Chevrolet for a spin.
After returning home to Mooresville, N.C., Earnhardt Jr. took time out this week to try to offer some encouragement to his untold numbers of supporters, who had harbored legitimate hopes of this season delivering their favorite driver's first championship in NASCAR's top series.
"As disappointing as this race was and to be eliminated like we were, we have to remember several, things," Earnhardt Jr. told listeners of the post-Talladega edition of "The Dale Jr. Download" on Dirty Mo Radio, a weekly podcast designed for Earnhardt to connect with members of his massive fan base.
Earnhardt Jr. then turned into focus to this weekend's race at Martinsville Speedway, a track where he is still seeking his first victory.
"I've never won at Martinsville and we'd love to do that if we can't get a championship," said Earnhardt Jr., who will part ways at season's end with crew chief Steve Letarte. "What better way to end this relationship with Steve than on a win or two by the end of the year? So that's kind of our short-term focus right now."
Earnhardt Jr. then looked ahead to 2015 and the arrival of new crew chief Greg Ives.
"The long-term focus is that this is a good team and we're going to have a change at the helm with Greg coming in, and we all need to be excited about that," he said. "I remember when we made the announcement (about Ives' hiring) -- I think the team was excited. Now to be drug through the mud today makes it a little difficult to see that far into the future, but we do have a lot of things to be excited about and looking forward to, and we can have some good times next year if we do this right -- just like this year."
Earnhardt Jr. also tried to help his fans put their disappointment about this season in perspective.
"We all knew this was hard," he said. "We all knew you've got to put a whole lot of work in, and there's not a ton of reward but there are some rewards and when they come, they're very sweet, so we all knew that going in. We knew there was potential for disappointment. There's a lot of disappointments in life. Getting knocked out of the Chase and not being able to fight for the championship this year will not be in the top five or top 10 disappointments.
"There's a whole lot worse things you will have and will deal with in life. We knew it was hard. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We didn't get it done. We get to try again the next season."
In his final remarks, Earnhardt Jr. got really personal with his fans, whom he knows are heartbroken.
"You guys do whatever you've gotta do to get over the disappointment," he said. Everybody deals with it differently. And I hate we're all going through it, but we'll do it together, win or lose."
VIDEO: Dale Jr. discusses being eliminated at Talladega