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CONCORD, N.C. – As his final NASCAR Cup Series season reaches the home stretch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not be one of the 16 drivers competing for a championship in the playoffs.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get it done,” Earnhardt said. “We tried hard, but we shouldn’t be in this position. To our fans, we think we’re a better race team and we should have never been in the position to be plowing like this, last-minute. We should have been locked in. We should have run well all year long and not have been in this situation. I just apologize for our performance throughout the year.”

But playoffs or not, Earnhardt and the No. 88 team still have their focus squarely on Victory Lane.

And after a regular-season finale that saw Earnhardt run inside the top 10 for much of the event and even lead 13 laps, the team is as motivated as ever to build on that run.

“(Saturday) showed us that we can certainly run well if we work hard,” the driver said. “When we run well, we’re always dangerous.”

In the regular season, Earnhardt earned one top-five finish, four top-10s and one pole position, leading 37 laps along the way.

“It wasn’t a great season performance-wise, but we’ve got 10 to go,” Earnhardt said. “So we'll see if we can get a few more good runs. Maybe a win, you never know. You’ve just got to keep going.”

The postseason begins this Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, and Earnhardt’s hopes are high that the No. 88 team will close out the year on a high note.

“I’m proud of how we did last weekend and I hope we can continue to run like that the rest of the year,” he said. “We'll keep plugging away and see if we can't have some fun before the end of this season.”