TALLADEGA -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't like using the "knockout" style of qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks such as Talladega Superspeedway, but he has an idea to make it better.

"We probably could run some heat races or something like that," he said after finishing 30th in the Aaron's 499 qualifying Saturday afternoon. "It would be more fun than that."

Earnhardt didn't make it out of the first round of qualifying. His No. 30 spot in the lineup for today's Sprint Cup race is his worst since starting 32nd last year at Bristol. That was 42 races ago.

The format proved difficult for Earnhardt, as he struggled to gain footing in the packs running on the track.

"I don't think anybody had a plan out there," he said. "You just go out there and run, and however you can finish is how you can finish, really. I don't know what we could have done differently.

"You just go out there and run in the draft, so it's hard to put up the fastest lap."

He joked there is one advantage to starting toward the back of the field.

"We'll get to pick a pretty decent (pit) stall, and that's about it," he said.

Earnhardt emphasized it's not the "knockout" format he said "just wasn't much fun." It's the format combined with the restrictor plate racing at tracks such as Talladega.

"When qualifying at a typical track, you go out there and you just run a fast lap," Earnhardt said.

Starting low doesn't necessarily mean Earnhardt is ruined for today. His lowest start for this season was 26th at Martinsville, and he finished third. When he started 32nd last year at Bristol, he wound up sixth in the Sprint Cup race.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.