OXFORD – A last push of autograph-seekers swarmed around Jeffrey Earnhardt. Some offered their condolences.

A solemn Earnhardt, 21, of Charlotte, N.C., smiled, signed a few pictures and thanked his well-wishers.

The grandson of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, whose seven championships in NASCAR’s top class are matched only by Richard Petty, then offered a two-word answer when asked about not receiving a provisional starting spot in the TD Bank 250 on Sunday at Oxford Plains Speedway.

“It (stinks),” Earnhardt said. “I was hoping they’d give it to us to give something to the fans. It just (stinks).”

It was a rough day for a driver whose last name is synonymous with auto racing.

Earnhardt finished last in a qualifying heat, and things went from bad to worse from there. He stayed near the back in the consolation and last-chance heats before receiving the bad news that his night was over.

OPS officials decided against giving Earnhardt a provisional.

“It was just at my discretion,” OPS President Bill Ryan Jr. said. “You can read into it what you want. I didn’t have any intention of giving him a provisional at all. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but there were 79 other nice guys out there. I don’t think he fell into the category of Cup-level driver or past champion.”

“We had some mechanical issues, but we figured them out,” Earnhardt said. “We’ll live another day. Hopefully, I will get a chance to make it back up here someday.”

Earnhardt arrived early Sunday morning after competing in a Camping World Truck Series race in Madison, Ill., on Saturday.

“We landed in Manchester, N.H., around 10 (Saturday) night and by the time I got checked in it was midnight,” Earnhardt said. “I lied around tossing and turning and finally fell asleep around 1:30. We got up at 5 and drove up here. We had a long day.”

Earnhardt said he remembers little of his grandfather, who died in a last-lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.

“We didn’t get to spend too much time together because he was such a busy man,” Earnhardt said. “But that’s part of it. It’s part of the sport. He did what he had to do. Right there toward the end, we started to spend more time together.

“It (stinks) I didn’t get to spend more time with him. But he was out there making a living and supporting his family. I didn’t start racing until after he passed away, so he couldn’t give me any advice.”

Earnhardt is racing part time in the Camping World Truck Series.

“I’ll try and do four more truck races and get to Talladega at the end of the season,” Jeffrey said. “We’ll do what we’ve got to do to get there and see where it goes from there.

“My ultimate goal is to get into the Sprint Cup series and make it to the top. But I have to take the steps that are required to get there. I hope in the next three, four years to be in the Cup series. We’re working toward that now.”

He plans to run a full-time schedule in the truck series next season and hopes to run a few times in the Nationwide Series as well.

“I’m learning,” said Earnhardt, who is also the nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

He’s also coping with expectations that come with his name.

“It’s different,” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a great name to carry. I just love racing and it’s an honor to carry the name. It’s an even bigger honor to try and keep the legacy going.”

Earnhardt acknowledged it won’t be easy.

“A lot of people expect you to go out there and win right off the bat,” he said. “There are some things you pick up quickly, but obviously you still have to learn just like everyone else. I’m confident in myself.”