Blogs > Nascar: Beyond the Track

Find out what's really going on in NASCAR. Look here to find out why your driver really lost his ride, or the real reason those two drivers can't stand each other. Learn about the hidden motives and reasons for the things that happen in NASCAR, from the drivers to the team owners.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

With Eury out, all eyes are now on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Though he probably knew it was inevitable after the terrible Charlotte showing for the #88 team, it still had to be a shock when Tony Eury Jr. was told by Rick Hendrick that he would no longer be on the pit box for his cousin Dale Earnhardt Jr.

On Thursday, Hendrick said Dale Jr.’s rough year isn’t all his crew chief’s fault, but a change had to be made. Brian Whitsell will crew chief at Dover, then starting at Pocono Lance McGrew will be the interim crew chief, the guy Jr. Nation will be counting on to get their guy back into equipment in which he can win.

On top of that, Hendrick made it clear everyone in his organization will be involved in trying to fix the mystery of why the team has been performing so poorly.

"We're going to put our full resources toward improving the situation and winning races," he said. "It's going to be a collective effort that includes all of our drivers, all of our crew chiefs and all of our engineers. Everyone in our company will be involved on some level."

You don’t say something like that unless you really mean it. And you can bet Hendrick will throw every wrench he can into getting the car in decent shape.

There is a risk this will take away from the performance of the other three teams, which have all won this year, but it’s one Hendrick has to take. You can’t have the biggest name in the sport driving for the best team in the sport and finishing almost dead last at Charlotte. It’s just embarrassing.

So assuming they get the car in order, that leaves only guy who can make the success happen: His name is Dale.

The whipping boy is gone. No longer can angry Jr. fans go online and complain about what terrible calls their driver’s crew chief made.

I have to believe a companywide effort will get the car into contending shape. At that point, Jr. will have to learn how to adapt to the setups, even if it’s not the kind of car he’s used to driving.

It’s pretty clear that when the car is set up in a way that he feels most comfortable, it’s nowhere near a contender. So he may have to learn how to drive a loose car more effectively, if that’s what it takes to get the team headed in the right direction and up to par with his successful teammates.

The key thing now is to be patient, no matter what happens at first.
If Jr. continues to struggle in the next few weeks, don’t call this a failure immediately. It’s very possible things will get better, but it will be a season-long rebuild and he’ll come back strong in 2010.

At the same time, if Jr. knocks out a string of top-5 finishes, don’t call Lance McGrew a genius and claim everything has been cured. Remember that the season is very long and rough patches are very likely.

Time will tell if this intense, all-hands-on-deck effort to boost the #88 team is a success. For the sake of NASCAR and Dale Jr., I really hope so.

There’s something just not right about watching the biggest star in the sport limp around mid-pack or worse, and I hope Jr. and the Hendrick team can make it work.

At this point in his career, it’s looking like Jr. won’t win multiple championships like his dad, but he should at least be running up front and competing for a title, especially considering that he drives for the best team in NASCAR.

One year since “Sliced Bread” debuted
A year ago this weekend, the most heralded young driver in the sport made his big league NASCAR debut in the Nationwide race at Dover. In the year since, the driver many say will be the next great superstar has taken a couple Nationwide wins, and come up with some good Cup runs lately after a pretty rough start to his career in the top series. You can’t always make predictions based on what an athlete does their rookie year, but overall this year should be viewed as a success for Joey Logano.

The key for him is to continue his progress, and in a few years we may be talking about him the way we’re talking about Kyle Busch right now, when he begins his assault on the NASCAR record books.

Where’s Truex going?
A recent rumor had Martin Truex Jr. in discussions with Michael Waltrip Racing about a ride. This would either be to replace Mikey in the #55, or add an additional team. While it’s not the worst move he could make, as this is a team on the rise, it wouldn’t be my first choice if I were Truex.

If he’s going to leave the Earnhardt Ganassi organization (and I bet he will), I would suggest he does everything he can to get in as a fourth Gibbs car.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home