By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t want to think about personnel issues with his No. 88 team until after the season finale this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That includes a decision about the status of crew chief Lance McGrew.

“I ain’t really making any decisions on that until after the season’s over with,” Earnhardt Jr. told Sporting News at Phoenix. “I asked [team owner] Rick [Hendrick] and everybody in the corporation if I could just not consider any options for next year or any ideas until we’re done racing, that I wanted to focus on what we’re doing. I just wanted to get all I could out of these last two races before I started thinking about that.

“I will say this about Lance: I’ve really enjoyed working with him. I’ve enjoyed even more so becoming his friend and getting to know him as well as I have. I have a lot of respect for him, and he’s put up with a lot of crap this year and last year, trying to help get this thing going. He gave me his best effort to try to help each weekend, and I’ve just got a lot of respect for him.”

Since McGrew replaced Tony Eury Jr. as crew chief in mid-2009, the results have been disappointing. Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t won a race since June 2008, and this year he failed to make the Chase For The Sprint Cup for the second straight season.

A year after finishing 25th in points, Earnhardt Jr. is 19th in the standings with just three top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He started 31st and finished 14th Sunday at Phoenix.

Earnhardt Jr. isn’t laboring under any illusions when assessing the overall performance of the No. 88 team.

“I think I can say that what’s going on on the race track is a fair assessment,” he said. “It’s had its ups and downs this year, but here lately we’ve struggled quite badly. It’s been unfortunate, and you really can’t visually see what our issues are. It’s a moving target for us.”

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