Dale Earnhardt Jr. acknowledged the possibility of a crew chief change on Friday afternoon, saying he was leaving it up to team owner Rick Hendrick to make the necessary changes to his No. 88 team in the offseason.
Earnhardt Jr. has been with crew chief Lance McGrew since midway through last season, but the pairing has yet to result in much success.
After saying it was "pretty obvious we aren't very good and we need to do some things to get better," Earnhardt Jr. was asked whether that meant a crew chief change was in order.
Earnhardt Jr. chuckled softly in response, then chose his words carefully.
"I've asked Rick to not put me in that situation before the season was over with, so we could focus on what we're doing at the racetrack," he said. "This is still a race; this is still a race weekend. I think out of respect for the fact that we've got one event left to run...it was best not to get into those discussions before the end of the season.
"I've gotten into those discussions before the end of the season and I've never liked it. I've never liked being a part of 'em. I never liked trying to play both sides of the fence. You've got to come to the track and finish the season out...and you've got to pretend you're here bringing your best bullets to the fight.
"I'd just as soon not get in the middle of that stuff until the last race is run, so we can concentrate on what we're doing here this weekend. Because it is a race and it is a race weekend, and if we don't come here with good intentions, it's a missed opportunity."
If that makes it sound like a foregone conclusion that he and McGrew will part ways, Earnhardt Jr. cautioned that it's "not a no-brainer. I'm not certain that's what's going to happen."
Crew chief change or not, Earnhardt Jr. described his season as a "missed opportunity." He noted that the team was in the top 12 for the first half of the season and was working its way back toward a Chase spot when it stumbled and reverted to its 2009 form.
"We haven't been able to put anything together the last half of the season," he said. "Nothing's worked for us, really, at all. It's been disappointing, because I feel really felt like we were better at the start of the year, and we were trying to prove that and seeing some good signs.
"And the second half, it just hasn't been good at all. We haven't been really competitive in the second half of the season."
Running poorly has taken its toll on Earnhardt Jr., he said. He recently told the blog AllLeftTurns.com that he was proud of his ability to stay positive despite his own fear he would "crumble mentally with such high hopes and such marginal results."
Friday, he echoed some of those sentiments, saying that despite maintaining a belief in his abilities, "The last couple years have been hard to deal with."
"They've been bad; we ain't run good – I ain't run good," he said. "And it's been real hard to deal with. For whatever it's worth – probably not too much – but I still feel some resolve in my abilities and still feel some confidence in what I can do. I guess I'm glad that's still there."
If there is a change in the offseason, Earnhardt Jr. said he doesn't want to be a part of the decision-making process.
"I'm just going to sit back," he said. "I've dove into those deals headfirst in the past; I'm not doing it this time. I obviously haven't had too good of an effect on the last several changes I've made. So maybe I'm not the person to be in there making those kind of decisions.
"I don't want to have any effect on whatever that decision is. I've enjoyed working with Lance; I've enjoyed working with this team. We try really hard; they try really hard. No one person's failed this team this season. I'll let Rick and his boys get together, and whatever they decide to do, they decide to do."