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Was the Junior/McGrew exchange a good thing or a bad thing?

By admin | February 11, 2010

By Richard Allen

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got to start at the front of the field in Thursday’s second Daytona Duel qualifying race by virtue of his second place run in time trials for the Daytoan 500. After running near the front of the pack for several of the race’s early laps, the driver of car #88 found himself riding around at the back of the pack out of contention in the race‘s later stages.

During a yellow flag pit stop Junior’s Chevrolet spent an extended amount of time on pit road as his crew attempted to repair damage to the car’s fenders.

Junior had experienced some on-track contact with Brian Vickers which had roughed up the right side of his car on the aerodynamically demanding track. Immediately after the repairs crew chief Lance McGrew asked his driver to consider parking the car.

“We’re pretty much done,” McGrew said over the radio. The pit boss was trying to convince his driver there was no point in going on. The car was damaged to the point that it could not run up front and to continue ran the risk of further damage which could result in having to go to a backup car. That in turn would result in losing the outside front row starting spot in the main event.

McGrew’s argument was a purely Hendrick Motorsports position, especially in the wake of teammate Mark Martin pulling to the apron of the track at the white flag of Duel #1 to avoid being caught up in a potential accident and losing his pole spot.

However, it was not an argument the driver wanted to hear. Junior declared in rather pointed language that there was a trophy on the line and he wanted go after it. When McGrew countered that there were quite a few ‘squirrels’ between his driver and that trophy, Junior asked in less than printable terms if the team had brought a backup car.

Some might view this exchange as a bad thing. It was a driver who would not listen to the logic of a crew chief who was looking at the bigger picture. Had this been Chad Knaus or Steve Letarte talking to their drivers one would have to agree that the crew chief was in the right.

In this case though, I see this as a driver who was lacking in confidence so much last year that he was afraid to speak his mind. Perhaps this is an indication that Junior is returning to the somewhat chippy personality he once exhibited when he was running better. The personality he had before he decided to try to enter the business end of racing by trying to gain control of DEI or before he joined the corporate world of Hendrick Motorsports.

Another indication to me that Junior has turned over an old leaf is his appearance. He doesn’t look so Hendrick like anymore. He came to Daytona sporting a full beard and wearing his hat backwards.

It looks to me like Junior has a new/old attitude. The folks at Hendrick and NASCAR no doubt hope this change will bring about more positive results. At least it shows he is more comfortable than he has been in about three years.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

11 Responses to “Was the Junior/McGrew exchange a good thing or a bad thing?”

  1. yankeegranny Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I agree with you 100% The “old,old” JR is back. If the car is not toooo beatup, I look for good things from him in the 500. If you noticed though, for the last part ot the race(I watch him on Raceview) he used it as a practice session, seeing how the car closed on other cars, drafted with slower cars and SHARED the information with Lance, He and TJ also had some pointed comments about some of the other drivers. Interesting, JR can use the f-word as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb and interjection. He was in rare form yesterdey. If this is any indication of his vocabulary for the 500, the majority of his scanner comments that are broadcast on his Direct TV driver channel will be bleeped out. How very “un-Hendricksish.” Go JR. I think he will do very well in the 500 if he can stay away from Vickers, but will finish second to Jaimie McMurrey.

  2. Overra88ted Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Appearence was one of the reasons some of the National Guard sponsorship got moved to the $24 last year. The Guard wasn’t happy with the unshaven look, this is the Military after all.

  3. Justin Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    LOL, Yankee, I can only laugh that you mentioned Jr needed to stay away from Vickers…..I think you mean, he needs to stay away from, in no particular order: 00, 11, 18, 77, 83, 2, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11 (yes, I put the 11 in there that many times, lol)

  4. Marybeth Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I think that Junior understands that a lot of the fans in the stands are there to see him on the track, so he obliged them. As they keep saying, “it’s all about the fans”. Perhaps HMS came to the track with the cars wrong, that could only be changed at the shop, unless they went to their back-up cars. Chad went to his back-up car and did better than JG, MM, or Jr.
    PS Danica wants a nickname. Since she drives for Go Daddy, how about Sis…?

  5. Marybeth Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    i.e., & now I read that JG is going to a back up car, also. “Jeff Gordon goes to backup car: #24-Jeff Gordon was involved in an accident in the first Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway when #51-Waltrip had a tire go down, causing #78-Smith to slow and Gordon’s Chevy hit Smith’s car, doing damage to the nose of the #24 car. The team will go to a backup car for the Daytona 500. #24 Crew Chief Steve Letarte reports: “The nose is pushed up and we sent our Shootout car that we wrecked on the last lap (Saturday night) home, and they’ve already repaired that, so that car is as good as new. So we’re better off just bringing that car out. So the Shootout car has already been back to the shop and been repaired and come back down.” SO THE DECISION IS MADE TO GO TO THE BACK-UP? “Yeah, it’s not worth it. You’ve worked all month long to try to win the Daytona 500 and we’re not going to beat the side out and mud it and just try to go for 20 spots on the grid. If you can’t win from 43rd but you could have won from 20th, you didn’t have a chance anyway.”(GM Racing)(2-11-2010) from 2/12/10

  6. kanye east Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    so Jr. being a stupid dick on the radio means he’s back; hell, maybe I should put my old man in a car..he might get a top ten from time to time…which is much more than JR is gonna do this year. That boy just don’t have it..

  7. Gabe Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Now if he could only get a real Crew Chief, like his Uncle. Not the “Experimental Guy,” and probably, the “Experimental Car.” Maybe he can be as impressive as his Corperate Team mates!

  8. Ginger Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    As usual Overra88ted, you are dead wrong again. Why am I not surprised???????

  9. LB Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Installing Lance McGrew as Junior’s crew chief was a big mistake. That’s not to say that Junior is faultless in this situation but their record together is dismal. It was even worse than Eury Jr.’s record. Oh, I wish Rick Hendrick had hired Steve Addington as Junior’s crew chief. Not only would that be some new blood at HMS but it would be a true slap in the face to Kyle Busch. I feel sure Addington could have brought some of his secrets that he had at Joe Gibbs Racing along with him. And it’s obvious that the 88 team needs some new blood and some new ideas. And if things don’t improve, they will need a new driver, too.

  10. Gene Says:
    February 12th, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Jr’s woes are not, and never have been, his crew chief(s) fault.

    He had fewer top 10s than Sam Hornish last year. Case closed.

    Can anyone name a call that Addington ever made to win a race for Kyle? You know, something like Jr’s last win. Kyle won races in spite of, not because of Addington.

  11. dale882008 Says:
    February 14th, 2010 at 12:08 am

    u dont win 18 cup races a daytona 500 the all star race 2 busch championships 2 bud shoutout wins and not have it kyle dont have a 500 win he only has 1 busch championship took him what 5 years to get it jr won back 2 back busch championships his first 2 years in busch i guess kyle dont have it either