RICHMOND, Va. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he hasn’t imagined a fairy tale finish to his last NASCAR regular season.

Retiring at the end of the season, the sport’s most popular driver is one of several racers whose only hope for getting into the 10-race playoffs that begin next weekend is by winning Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

But even Earnhardt seems to realize the likelihood of his 27th career victory – and fourth on the 0.75-mile oval – isn’t high. It has been 62 races since his last victory, at Phoenix in November 2015, and he said Friday after practice that he has what feels like “a sixth- to 12th-place car.”

He added: “If we could come out of here with a win, it would be quite the surprise, not only for all you guys, but us included.”

Earnhardt’s laid-back attitude contrasts greatly with those of other drivers in need of a win.

Joey Logano, for example, won the Cup race here in April, but then became the first driver to have a race “encumbered,” NASCAR parlance for being allowed to keep the victory, but without the playoff points or the automatic berth in the postseason because of an infraction discovered after the race.

He has struggled ever since.

“We are in a do-or-die situation,” Logano said. “Anytime you can win a race in that situation, there is no better feeling than that. Also, returning here after our win in the spring and obviously the drama that followed, it would be very nice to be able to get back in Victory Lane and prove a point. I don’t see any reason why we can’t.”

Logano, who was second to Jimmie Johnson in the final standings last season, also likes the way his team is approaching the challenge.

“This is a time that shows your true character,” he said. “You can be either down on yourself and be beat before you show up to the racetrack, or show up here ready to go and have the right attitude and confidence that we are going to win. That is where the team feels like they are at. I am proud I am with a team like that.”

Others needing a win to qualify for the playoffs include Clint Bowyer and rookies Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. The three non-winners ahead of them, and thus most vulnerable to being knocked out of the postseason by a first-time winner, are rookie Chase Elliott, Jamie McMuray and Matt Kenseth, who won the pole Friday with a fast lap at 122.421 mph. Denny Hamlin will start on the outside of the front row after a top speed of 122.277 mph, with Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson in the second row.