by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.June 2, 2009 6:49 am UTC 2 Comments
Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, called for a four tire change on the last round of pit stops while Darian Grubb opted to put only two on the Smoke-mobile.
Putting the two tires on Tony Stewart’s ride enabled the new Sprint Cup points leader to battle Greg Biffle for the lead. But that lead didn’t last long as Johnson was able to use his four new tires to run down Stewart and pass him for the lead with two laps to go.
Johnson dominated the race, especially through its middle sections as he led the most laps. As dominate as the #48 was, the biggest story of the weekend was the replacement of Tony Eury, Jr. as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Lance McGrew was slated to take over the helm at Pocono, but when Brad Keselowski fail to qualify at Dover, McGrew started his new assignment a week early.
The combination of McGrew and Earnhardt got off to a decent start as the #88 was able to find its way to a top twenty finish after running as high as fifth early in the race. What remains to be seen is if the combination can stick for the long term. Earnhardt admitted that the dialogue between himself and his cousin was at times sparse and so far that dialogue with McGrew has been much more prevalent.
This week’s BUZZ ON PIT ROW asks:
How will Lance McGrew be able to turn the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. team around?
Let us know what you think and we may use your comments on this week’s ON PIT ROW radio show. Or call the show between 5-7pm ET at 800-645-2946 and your call could win a Kevin Harvick bobblehead if you are the Shell Nitrogen Enriched Call of the Day.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media
by JamesJ, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
Sundays of my youth consisted of NASCAR racing and cold bottles of Mountain Dew. Thirty years later not much has changed for me. However, nearly everything has changed in NASCAR.May 29, 2009 11:07 pm UTC 4 Comments
I’m guessing Kyle Busch sadistically burned ants with a magnifying glass as a kid. I can visualize him squatting down in the driveway under the hot Vegas sun. Calmly and with fine adjustments to the magnifying glass, he focuses the sun’s rays. One by one he toys with the ants by applying a little burn here and a little burn there.
When it comes to Earnhardt Jr. and his legions of fans, Kyle may very well toy with them too via the same method- a little burn here, a little burn there. Earnhardt’s team was recently reorganized with a crew chief change (Eury Jr. out, Lance McGrew in). This change has been something than many fans (including a large portion of ‘Earnhardt Nation’) and media have said needed to happen.
During a media interview this weekend, Kyle was asked for his thought on the crew chief changes at the #88 team.
“You’ve got to make the most popular driver in the sport competitive, so you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. You know it’s, uh, he’s [Earnhardt Jr.] the one who brought that crew chief [Eury Jr.] on. He’s the one who pulled so hard to bring Eury Jr. in. It looked like it was working there in the beginning, and uh, just hasn’t worked since summer of last year really. So, whatever makes them better I guess.”
Later in the interview Kyle was asked about Eury’s replacement, Lance McGrew (with whom Kyle has worked with in the past). Following some comments on McGrew’s past responsiblities with the team, portions of Kyle’s answers have been perceived as ‘burns’ to Earnhardt Jr..
“He’s [McGrew] got his hands full, I guess. You know, having to deal with what’s going on, and if Junior doesn’t run well, then he [McGrew] is going to be the ‘problem’ again. It’s never Junior; it’s always the crew chief.
Now, I watched the media interview and the tone of Kyle’s responses are quite different than what one may get from just reading the ‘hot points’ pulled out of the interview and quoted on blogs and forum threads.
So is Kyle just answering the questions with brutal honesty? Is he saying what many in the garage and grandstand are thinking, but are afraid or unwilling to say? Or is this just a thumb-to-nose at Hendrick Motorsports and Earnhardt Jr. after being let go to make room for Jr.?
I don’t know, but it could simply be that Kyle knows his role within the sport right now- the villain. As such, he finds opportunities to apply a little burn here and a little burn there as he polarizes fans and competitors alike. One thing is for sure, he refuses to be cast into NASCAR’s all too common politically correct mold.
What do you think?
by Matt Mercer, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I'm the former blogger of The Catfish Show NASCAR Blog and a contributor to On Pit Row. Follow me on Twitter: @mattmercerMay 28, 2009 7:12 pm UTC 8 Comments
As I was reading a story this afternoon on what new Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief Lance McGrew plans for the #88 team, I started worrying about the chances of Mark Martin’s title run this year. McGrew says that among the first items to be evaluated is the #88 team’s relationship with that of their shop-mate, the #5 team. McGrew says that they aren’t a unified outfit because they were two entities brought together, unlike the #24 and #48 teams. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the #5 and #25 teams were together since what, 2002 when Hendrick added a 4th car? The teams have been there, with mixed success, since the days of Terry Labonte/Kyle Busch in the #5 and Joe Nemechek/Brian Vickers/Casey Mears in the #25. McGrew was even a big part of that #25 team, serving as crew chief for Vickers in that time. I have to wonder why McGrew seems to fault the new combination of Martin and crew chief Alan Gustafson in the #5 for being successful. Maybe I’m reading the story wrong, but that’s how it looks.
My main concern here is that Martin’s team has been very successful with fast cars nearly ever week of the year while Earnhardt Jr. and his team haven’t adjusted their equipment to meet the demands of 2009 yet. It’s no guarantee the change will work the first time around. Is McGrew implying that he wants to change the way Gustafson is running the #5 team? This quote scares me:
“Basically, the crew chiefs have to steer the ship. If you want [the 5/88] building to perform and function with the 24/48 shop does, it has to be managed like the 24/48 shop is. The crew chiefs steer the ship there. I feel like you have to do that in unison, because the idea is to have two teams in one building that operate as one. Those [24 and 48] teams do that. Right now that’s not happening [in the 5 and 88 shop].”
Right. Because it’s the #5 team’s responsibility for the #88 not using the notes and setups the #5, #24, and #48 do. McGrew is right about this part: ideally, both teams in the shop should operate as one. It seems that the #88 team led by Tony Eury Jr. was willing to break away from that and do things their own way.
All I’m saying is, this could easily drag down Martin during the rest of the 2009 season. If McGrew wants to change the #5 team’s method (which is clearly working) it could derail Martin’s title hopes this season. I do not want that to happen and I suspect that even Dale Jr. himself wouldn’t want that to happen. Hendrick needs to be careful he isn’t tearing down the strong to build up the weak.
Photo credit: Sports Illustrated
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.May 28, 2009 4:30 pm UTC 2 Comments
Tony Eury, Jr. must be breathing a huge sigh of relief.
The latest obstacle in the way of Dale Earnhardt Jr‘s road to success has been mercifully moved to the research and development side of the Hendricks Motor Sports garage. Tony Eury Jr was released from his duties as the crew chief for his cousin earlier today (Thursday). You just have to wonder if Eury, Jr. had to be muttering under his breath; “What took so long?”
Rick Hendrick was not going to fire Earnhardt; even though much of the disappointing season has to be put squarely on the shoulders of The Intimidator’s son. The well documented brain farts of Earnhardt Jr had to weigh heavy on Eury Jr. It was only a matter of time before Hendrick had to make a move.
“Our performance hasn’t been where it should be,” said Hendrick. “It’s impossible to pin that on any one factor, but a change is the right decision at this point. We have a plan in place, and we’re going to move forward with it.”
That plan revolves around veteran crew chief Lance McGrew. McGrew most recently has been guiding Brad Keselowski’s Cup effort. An effort that resulted in a seventh place finish at Darlington. McGrew has won a Nationwide championship with Brian Vickers in 2003. He has won races from on top of the pit box in all three national series with drivers Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Ricky Hendrick, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and most recently Tony Stewart.
Team manager Brian Whitesell will lead the team this weekend at Dover. Whitesell and Rex Stump, Hendrick Motorsports’ lead chassis engineer, have been assigned to support McGrew on a full-time basis. Whitesell, who won two of seven races as Jeff Gordon’s interim crew chief in 1999, will join McGrew and team engineer Tom Stewart on the no. 88 pit box to assist with race strategy. Hendrick plotted his strategy:
“We’re going to put our full resources toward improving the situation and winning races. 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.”
McGrew, Whitesell, Stump and Stewart will give the team something it has not had since Tony Eury, Sr. was Junior’s crew chief; an authority figure to call the shots. The days of indecision and questioning race calls from inside the cockpit will be a thing of the past.
One more questionable piece of this under performing puzzle has been replaced. Now that the “evil step-mother” and the “bumbling crew-chief” are gone from the picture, the focus will now have to center on one person. Once and for all we will see where the problem has been.