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Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s slow start to 2009 has whispers about maybe it's time for a new crew chief


Dale Earnhardt Jr. (R) says he's heard the whispers, but he says he's got great chemistry with crew chief Tony Eury Jr. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    By Mike Mulhern

    BRISTOL, Tenn.

    Should Rick Hendrick shake up Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team and give him a new crew chief, to replace cousin Tony Eury Jr.
    Earnhardt has won only once since joining Hendrick last season, and that was a gas-mileage win at Michigan last summer.
    This season Earnhardt and Eury – who have been working together for most of their careers – have had a ragged start and come here mired 24th in the standings, 237 points down.
   But Earnhardt says he's not interested in any changes.
   And teammate Jeff Gordon, atop the Sprint Cup standings, says "It would be very tough to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, and I think Tony does a good job."
    Earnhardt faces up to the fact that "we haven't run well, and it is obvious.
   "It is okay for people to point that out, because it is a fact.
    "I put myself in this position. I'm willing to accept the ups and downs -- and the goods and bads -- that come with it. 
    "We haven't run like we want to, like I think we should.
    "But the guy I feel bad for is Tony Jr., because he gets criticized so badly.
    "Everybody knows how smart a guy he is, that he is a good mechanic and a solid crew chief.
    "So I'll take the fall.
     "I would rather be crucified than him.
    "Every time I read that people are on his case, I feel like I am sending my brother to jail for a crime I committed.
     "I understand I need to run better. I understand what everybody is saying when they ask 'What gives? Where are the results?'
   "That is my goal -- to make it happen. I just wish it were an easier job for him and the guys on the team. It is tough working on that team."
    Certainly the chemistry between these cousins is unique: "There are riffs between every driver and every crew chief…and they work it out or they don't," Earnhardt says.  "Me and Tony Jr. do a pretty good job of working it out.
    "Through everything we have been through, we still love each other to death and would do anything for each other.
    "We really do enjoy working together.
    "But it is a tough deal -- because we have a lot of sponsors, a lot of fans.
    "Whether we are the perfect combination or not, that doesn't mean anything to me. I just like racing with him. That is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
    "Maybe we are not the best combination out there, but if we are both on our A-game, and we get a little bit of luck, we would be just as good as anybody else out there.
   "We've just had a little bit of bad luck, and a lot of failures, especially at the end of last year.
    "It is up to all the professionals and experts to figure out what we need to do to be a winning race team…and we will make the changes. And we have made changes.
   "But I like working with the guy. We trust each other…and we go through a lot of crap together.
   "I know where he is at, and I know where I'm is at. We just have a bond.
    "There are days where I wish Tony Sr. was still around….but Tony Jr. was going to develop into a crew chief. Still, there are times I wish Tony Sr. was over his shoulder.
   "I don't want to change Tony Jr.'s position and his authority. But it was just awesome having Tony Sr. around chewing our butts sometimes."


Never happen!

Although I am not a Junior fan (Love Kerry to death though!), splitting this duo would be the dealbreaker for Junior. Rick Hendrick might insist and Junior might go along with it for awhile, but his reluctance would turn into resistance then resentment. Then it would be bye-bye, HMS a whole lot sooner than anyone expected. It has been and continues to be my own personal prediction that Junior won't stay at Hendrick's anyway, unless he undergoes a lobotomy and becomes another cardboard corporate clone...but somehow I don't see that happening either.

new crewchief

While I agree that Eury SR might put JR on the right track, I think there is another reason for JR's troubles: the over the wall crew. I watch race view and check/compare the pit stop speeds. JR's teams are CONSISTENTLY slower than his teammates and the other top teams, ofter 2-4 seconds slower. It is maddening to see him work his way up through traffic and get almost into contention and come out of the pitstop back 5 spots or more. If i were making a change, it would be with the pitcrew, not the crewchief. Put "pops" in charge of the pitcrew and I bet you would see him light a fire under them. Races are won or lost on pit row and right now JR's boys are not getting it done

Jr needs to drive

Let me start by saying that I've been a Junior fan since he started racing. After reading all of the articles about a need for a change, I too thought Junoir needed another crew chief, but after listening to the scanner talk during the Bristol race I thought Dale,Jr was the crew chief and not Tony,Jr. Every pit stop it was Dale,Jr telling what changes needed to be made. I thought that was the crew chiefs job not the drivers. Dale,Jr needs to drive the car and tell the crew chief whats wrong with the car so the crew chief can make the necessary changes.
I agree with the first post that Tony Eury,Sr might put Junior on track. Junior needs somebody that can tell him what to do and what changes need to be made. He needs a real boss in the pit box and if a change needs to be made then do it.
Dale,Jr needs to drive and Tony,Jr or somebody else needs to be the crew chief!!!

Dale JR

I like both JR's...we are 5 races in, wanna light a fire, put Tony SR in there for a few races..car chief, crew chief, whatever..try it. The only thing is Brad K. needs SR to "guide" him along early in his career. Pops kept JR in line during his Bush days (along with his dad), so give it a whirl !!!

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