Dale Earnhardt Jr. could barely crack a smile after his performance on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway – and this after the guy finished fourth.
Most drivers would happily take a top-five finish without a second thought, but Earnhardt Jr. said he was "just so damn embarrassed about how we ran all night" and even apologized to his fans for not having a competitive car.
Earnhardt Jr., who moved back into the top 12 in points (he's now 11th), repeatedly said his team got lucky by surviving a wreck-filled race.
In fact, he used the word "lucky" at least eight times in a six-minute interview.
"We're getting a little bit more lucky than I would like," he said. "We're not running good enough to finish fourth, so we're lucky to finish there. You don't want to make the Chase on pure luck, you know? You want to make it because you ran well."
Earnhardt Jr. said the No. 88 team "just totally missed it" with the setup. Crew chief Lance McGrew opted for the same setup used in the team's runnerup Daytona 500 finish, but Earnhardt Jr. noted that the team never ran well in the 500 until it got new tires at the very end.
"Mark (Martin) had the same setup (tonight), and we both ran like shit," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) had different stuff, and I was looking at it and going, 'Wonder why they've got that?' And then they ran like they did."
"We've just got to be smarter, you know?" Earnhardt Jr. said, pointing emphatically at his head.
The sport's most popular driver was asked why he wasn't just happy with a top-five finish.
"I'm taking it," he said. "Shit, yeah. Sure. Why not? But we've just got to do better. It's not good enough."