Dale Jr. knows performance has to improve, or there may not be a 3rd round in Chase for him

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of 12 drivers to advance to the next phase – the Contender Round – of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But finishing 17th in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway simply didn’t cut it for Junior – and he was the first to admit it.

“We had a pretty frustrating day,” Earnhardt told ESPN after the race. “The car didn’t drive very well. I thought we had a better car in practice. We just missed it completely, didn’t have any speed, frustrated with the way the balance was.

“I drove hard, our team worked hard, but 17th was as good as we could run.”

But if Earnhardt performs in the next three races the way he did in the Chase’s first three races – 11th at Chicagoland, ninth at New Hampshire and the worst of all, 17th on Sunday at Dover – there may not be a third round for Earnhardt to advance to.

No one has to remind Earnhardt. He knows it all too well.

“It’s not good enough to win a championship, but we get to move forward and start from scratch the next weekend,” Earnhardt said. “Trust me, we’re going to go to work to find everything we can do to be better, but it’s not going to be a couple of weeks. We need to find something quick.”

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