Analyzing Dale Jr.’s radio chatter misses the point … problems much deeper at #88 team
Associated Press photo
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks to crew chief Tony Eury Jr. during a test session Tuesday at Lowe‘s Motor Speedway
In the minds of many, this was supposed to be his year … the year he finally followed in his father’s big footsteps.
Joining the powerhouse that is Hendrick Motorsports was supposed to be the key that NASCAR's favorite son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., needed to unlock his true potential and claim a championship.
He started off the year strong, and was the best Hendrick team for a while. But since mid-season, something has been off at the #88 team. Many blame his crew chief and cousin Tony Eury Jr., and have called for his removal.
Rick Hendrick said recently that Dale Jr. needs to better control his emotions as he chats with Eury during the races. But the head honcho is blinding himself to the real problem and focusing on something that doesn’t really mean that much.
Emotions are not what’s ailing the team. Missed setups, and not being able to fix them during the races, are what will likely leave Jr. without a title this year.
How often do we see the 88 car get off to a great start, run toward the front all day, then fade at the end and not finish strong? The car and track change, but his team doesn’t make the appropriate fixes to keep the car up front. Either Jr. isn’t effectively conveying to Eury what is going on with the car, or they’re not listening very well and making the wrong fixes. Or maybe it’s a little of both.
I suppose it’s possible that the team is just in a funk and Jr. will make a series of top-5 runs over the next month and get back in the title hunt. No one expected Greg Biffle to make the run he’s had over the past two weeks, and now he’s now a legitimate title contender
But I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The consistency just hasn’t been there lately, and he would have to have strong runs for the remaining eight races to hope for any shot at the title.
If things continue as they are, Jr. will likely finish mid-pack in the Chase and further feed the viewpoint of many of his detractors that he’s just not championship material.
I don’t subscribe to that view, and believe he’ll claim a title during his career. But this year doesn’t seem to be his year. If the Chase plays out in the same frustrating manner much of the season has for Jr., it will be in Hendrick’s interest to make some adjustments on the personnel side of the #88 team … either crew chief, mechanics, pit crew or anything else it takes to make the team better … whether Jr. likes it or not.
Defending Kyle Busch
I never thought I’d do this, but I have to stand up for the man many call “vile Kyle” for a second. I saw some media members criticize Kyle Busch’s comments after the race, where he declared his title hopes officially dead.
These people believe these comments are proof of their assertion Busch would fold under the pressure of the Chase.
I have to say that’s a bit harsh, and even downright misleading. Busch made a kamikaze dive from on top of the world to without a title shot due to factors completely out of his control. Human error by a team member ruined his day at Loudon (and he did a great job all day driving a car that wanted to wreck every turn), then his engine gives out at Dover after Mark Cronquist and his people had given Kyle so many great ones all season.
Busch didn’t fold at all. He was the victim of some very terrible luck, and was just being honest about his chances in the Chase after his horrific start. It’s pretty hard to come out of a hole that deep when you’re competing against the 11 other best drivers out there. Pretty much all of them would have to screw up or have a lot of bad luck.