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Friday, October 16, 2009

Tony Eury Sr. may be only crew chief who can cure Dale Jr.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and times are desperate for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

After a terrible qualifying effort at Charlotte, Jr. gave an interview to ESPN in which he sounded defeated and uncertain about whether his new crew chief was working out, and what was necessary to get him back on track once 2010 rolls around.

"I'm about to the end of my rope … I fell like I don’t have any control," he said when talking about the struggles of 2009, which have come despite his three teammates at Hendrick Motorsports all winning races and competing for the title.

When Lance McGrew came over to the #88 team and replaced Tony Eury, Jr., Earnhardt was hopeful things would turn around, and there have been some weeks where he has run well.

But it’s starting to look like maybe the combination just isn’t working out. Jr. was fast in practice, then stunk it up in qualifying and will start from near the rear of the field.

Regarding his crew chief of the future, Earnhardt did not embrace McGrew, and hinted that whoever ends up being in charge needs to have the style of a dictator, like Tony Eury Sr. once had.

Well, if that’s the case, I think Eury Sr. needs to be convinced to make the move, even if it’s just through 2010. All but two of Jr.’s wins have come with Pops as his crew chief, and that magic needs to be found again.

In the interview, Earnhardt stressed that Eury Sr. doesn’t want to leave his gig in Nationwide and move up to Cup, where the atmosphere is much more intense and competive and, “not a very fun place. It's really frustrating and really hard."

Despite that statement, if I was Rick Hendrick I’d be on the phone to Pops as soon as possible, trying to convince him to make the move. Without him, Jr. has lost his mojo, and appears in danger of never getting it back until some sort of team chemistry is created.

Just look at Jimmie Johnson, for example. I would guess that about half his wins have come become of good team chemistry and his relationship with Chad Knaus, as Jimmie can relax and focus on driving because he knows Chad will do what is necessary on pit road to win the race.

It’s been a while since Jr. was that comfortable with a crew chief, and if Pops made a return it might help bring back that sort of confidence. Perhaps most amusing in the interview was Jr.’s recognition that it’s no fun being his crew chief. “Hell, I wouldn’t want it. It’s a tough job,” Jr. said.

Whatever happens within the organization of his team, Jr. wishes it would happen soon.

"I'm just waiting for somebody to make the call. Just put the damn team together and say this is what you've got and this is what you're going to do next year," he said.
Words like that come from pure frustration, and it calls for some true leadership on that team … preferably leadership from a man who’s proven in the past he can lead Dale Jr. to the promised land of victory lane.

Was that really Blaney running up front?
Your eyes were not deceiving you Friday night … That was Dave Blaney racing for the win at Charlotte in the Nationwide race.

Having spent most of the year behind the wheel of a start-and-park in the Cup series, Blaney put it best after the race when he said Friday night was especially fun because, “I haven’t been able to race much this year.” He ended up in third place, behind Mike Bliss and (yaaaaawn) Kyle Busch. Actually, the racing was decent through the pack all night, so it wasn’t a bad night, if you dismiss the Busch runaway up front.

Back to Blaney, though, I would hope this run might open his eyes to the fact he might be better off settling for a full-time Nationwide ride next year instead of another year of start-and-parking in Cup. I don’t see how that’s at all fulfilling, and he clearly still has the goods to contend on the lower levels. That has to be better off than pulling in after five laps on Sunday, and the money can’t be too much different.

Who’s #1?
So who will be replacing Martin Truex Jr. in 2010?
Soon we will know, but apparently it won’t be Jamie McMurray, which was the name everyone was associating with the ride up until now. Sources tell ESPN that 2 others are being considered for the ride … possibly Bobby Labonte, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, David Gilliland and Casey Mears.

If those are the choices and they don’t take Bobby Labonte, there is something seriously wrong with the team. The other four offer plenty of potential upside, but no real past results to cite. Labonte is a champ, and can still race well when he has a decent car (something that hasn’t been true very often for the past several years). The veteran could also offer some advice to would-be teammate Juan Montoya about competing for titles.


Blogger HEATHER said...

I have been saying this all year long!

October 17, 2009 at 12:06 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So now we start to backtrack. Next thing you know he'll want back in the door at DEI. Until he gets a shot of talent, it isn't going to matter who his crew chief is, what equipment he's in or what track he's on. It's HIM, not the rest of the racing world.

October 17, 2009 at 3:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just watching Race Day and they said that Kevin Harvick wants out of his ride, NOW. Maybe he and Jr. could just switch. Marybeth

October 17, 2009 at 4:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have taken a hiatus from the Cup series since Jr. left DEI, but despite the dislike I have for Crick H, Pops back manning the 88 ship would be enough for me to come back into the fold. There are only 2 ways Jr gets back near the top, with Pops or with Knaus...after all he's taken a guy who ran in the 30's and 40's in Busch and made him a 3 (likely 4) time champion. Imagine what Knaus could do with a driver who's been successful away from Hendrick.

October 20, 2009 at 7:42 AM 

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