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Am I starting to believe those who say Junior is being slighted by his own team?

By admin | May 16, 2010

By Richard Allen

As I have watched the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup races I have asked myself if the claims by some of his fans that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is being slighted by his own team could be true.

For some time I have received comments and e-mails making such claims and I have brushed them off or even laughed at the very thought. However, the #88 Hendrick Motorsports team’s performance over the past three weeks has been anything but laughable. For lack of a better term, this team has been an embarrassment.

Just think, in Darlington much was made of the downright foolish banter between the driver and crew chief Lance McGrew during and after that race. This was the sort of thing that was supposed to be brought under control when Earnhardt’s cousin, Tony Eury, Jr., was replaced as team boss last year. Instead, the nonsense seems to have reached a new level.

Consider this, if after a losing effort by the New England Patriots what would the reaction be if Tom Brady and Randy Moss sat around on the sideline after the game and engaged in a bad comedy routine? Sports talk phone lines would be ablaze and ESPN would alter an entire week’s programming.

After the Darlington race, it would seem as though this team, driver included, would show up in Dover determined to redeem themselves. Instead, they put in an equally embarrassing effort.

The car was not ever competitive and eventually, seven laps were lost while a piece in the steering had to be replaced on pit road. At least they apparently had the piece in question. At an earlier race in California this year an axle broke and a spare was nowhere to be found.

This team clearly does not demonstrate the same level of preparedness as their HMS mates. Can you imagine a team led by Chad Knaus, Steve Letarte or Alan Gustafson making these same type of mistakes on an almost weekly basis.

However, I am not laying all of the blame at the feet of McGrew and his crew members. Can you imagine a team making these same mistakes for Jeff Gordon and him just laughing it off in a post race comedy skit? And think of what a pleasure palace the shop at Stewart-Haas Racing has been over the past six weeks or so.

Junior is well known for his lack of attendance in his team’s garage. Human nature says that crew members work harder and invest more emotionally for someone they feel connected to.

So, back to the question at hand. Do I believe Junior is getting short changed by his team? He is getting the same resources as Johnson, Gordon and Martin. And, logic tells me that as a good businessman Rick Hendrick very much wants this team to succeed. However, I do believe Junior’s team is not as good as the other three HMS teams.

I am not saying Lance McGrew is a bad crew chief. I just don’t think it is going to work out for him in this instance. I am not saying the other team members are bad. I just don’t think they are putting the best car on the track in this instance.

I believe this is a whole team failure by the driver, crew chief, owner and everyone else involved.

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

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 |

28 Responses to “Am I starting to believe those who say Junior is being slighted by his own team?”

  1. jr88freak Says:
    May 16th, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    I agree with your last statement. The whole team as one is a complete failure. It just rests heavily on some shoulders than others.

    It’s like Junior has the 2nd rate team on a first class organization. Not good enough for the 48 or 24? That’s okay, you’ll be on the 88. The mechanical failures, or pieces breaking like today, (though word is that nothing was broken. They didn’t fix anything) shouldn’t be happening. But when a driver is complaining that it’s wreckin’ lose. The wheels are like basketballs in the corners and I have to turn 90 degrees to get the car to turn… there needs to be some adjusting going on.

    They unloaded a crap car and it went home, in worse shape than it came in. I hope that car has a special place in Junior’s woods somewhere.

  2. missouriracefan Says:
    May 16th, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    So we have moved from blaming only the crew chief to blaming the whole crew that works on the 88? Hope that is a very big bus you just threw everyone under.

  3. Mike Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 9:06 am

    As Kyle said, it’s never the driver, it’s always the Crew Chief.

  4. Curtis webster Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I think if you listen in to Jr’s radio frequency during a race, you will understand at least part of the problem. I have heard other drivers give detailed feedback to their crewchief about how the car is handling, and that helps them diagnose the problem and fix it. Jr. just complains about it. He cannot seem to communicate the problems back to Lance. Wreckin’ loose doesn’t tell him where it is loose.

  5. Ginger Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 9:40 am

    And Kyle said after a bad day at the track, “I’m just the driver. I can only do what the car let’s me do”. Pot, meet kettle.

    Jr gives detailed feedback. I listen to it each race. Dr Dick actually complimented Jr’s feedback. Giving the feedback and getting the right adjustments are two differect things. It’s always best to know the facts before you post. Listening to bits and pieces of a race incar doesn’t give you a true picture of what is going from start to finish.

  6. Fred Thompaoe Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Jr’s is a waste of seat time. Jamie Mcmurray @ Earnhardt Ganasi is doing better. Teressa Earnhardt looks more and more like a prophet for the comments she made about Jr when he left DEI….she couldn’t have been more right. Stop blaming everything else and look soley at the driver. He SUCKS!

  7. Jay B. Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Even when he does give detailed information about where the car is loose, Lance can’t even fix it then. It would be different if the team unloaded a good car and they finished bad, then you could say it’s Jr’s fault but their cars are crap as soon as they come off the truck. Which means they’re crap when they leave Hendrick Motorsports. Which says to me yes the entire team is to blame, and when I say the entire team I do mean the driver too. I am a huge Jr. fan but the whole laying down when the cars not handling perfect thing is kinda getting old. The kid really needs to get his crap together and try to make the best of what he’s given. I think if he can do that, then maybe the team will be more motivated to not bring a crap car to the track.

  8. Ken Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:06 am

    How can you expect the crew to put their maximum effort in the race car when the driver clearly doesn’t? Jr. doesn’t do the physical conditioning that the rest of HMS drivers and team members do and he only shows up to race with little contact with his team. Look at the results Denny Hamlin achieved when he suffered through the entire race after his surgery. He did it to show his dedication to the team.

    Rick has changed everything but the driver and the results have been the same.

  9. Jay B. Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Hey Fred, Jamie Mac is doing better at Chip Ganassi racing, get it right. The only thing Earnhardt about that team is in the name. That team is not the DEI that it was back in the day, even Tony Sr and Jr said on Earnhardt’s Hall of Fame biography that team isn’t what it used to be, that’s why Tony Sr left in the first place.

  10. Geezer Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Could it just be that Gordon, Johnson, and Martin are better drivers?

  11. Gene Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Jr makes money by selling t-shirts for Rick. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that he would sell even more if he would win a race now and then? Hendrick’s no dummy, so instead of the worst, I bet Jr’s getting the best stuff at HMS. He just doesn’t have that will to win anymore.

    He doesn’t go to the meetings, he doesn’t go to the gym, he doesn’t go test the car himself as often his 3 teammates, he quite simply doesn’t care.

    I’ve heard him on the radio, his feedback is no where near as helpful as the other drivers. His main feedback is to whine for four new tires during an entire green flag run!

  12. Ken Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:56 am

    The problem isn’t the equipment or the evil stepmother or Tony Eury Jr. or McGrew. It’s the common denominator, the driver. Right now if you ranked the drivers, Jr. would be no higher than 15th. So on a good day, Jr. should finish about 15th. So when the driver isn’t that good, you can’t expect the results to be that good.

    Jr.’s problem is that he can’t turn fast laps when the car isn’t handling well, while other drivers can. Kyle was complaining that his car was very loose yesterday and that’s when he was running second. So Kyle managed to stay up front even with an ill handling car.

    Do you guys really think that Jimmie’s car handles perfectly all the time? Of course it doesn’t. But Jimmie makes the best of the situation, something that Jr. can’t do.

    And let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Lance McGrew is the only crew chief that makes the wrong adjustments. Chad Knaus is probably the only crew chief that doesn’t adjust the car in the wrong direction. Everyone else does and yet the good drivers are able to keep their cars on the lead lap until their CC’s are able to adjust them back in the right direction.

    Jr.’s problem is that he expects a perfect setup every weekend and he can’t turn fast laps when the handling is off. He has to learn that everyone else is dealing with the same problems that he deals with and the only difference is that the good drivers can make the best of their situations.

  13. lori anderson Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 11:22 am

    to me the bottom line is Jr. needs someone like POPs. That is when Jr. was competitive and happy. As far as DEI. martin Truex did an interview in which he stated it was going down hill and disorganized. Ganassi is responsible for the good changes. Teresa let it go down hill. It no longer resembles DEI at all.Have heard Jr explain clearly what is wrong and they can’t fix it. time for a Pops like crew chief old school kind of guy.

  14. yankeegranny Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    The car was a piece of garbage from the time it unloaded until they put it back in the hauler. I don’t care how good or bad a driver you are, there is only so much that you can do with garbage.
    I love to read the armchair crewchiefs/carchiefs/sports psychologists who can analyze everything that is wrong with the 88 team and come down to the same solution; THE DRIVER.
    I listen to JR;s incar audio each race and he does give a lot better feedback this year. Unfortunately, the fixes on pitrow don’t seem to change the problems.. At Dover, was there a steering problem or not? Listening to the scanner, it sure sounded like there was a major issue, yet Lance says there was nothing wrong . JR said the problem was fixed and he could drive the car; in fact he had laps as fast as the leaders after that(Lance’s words , not mine) Now either JR is crazy, dilusional, what have you, or Lance is a liar.
    If I were MR H, I would be stopping at the Piggley-Wiggley and buying some milk, cookies and Mickey Mouse party hats and have a meeting with JR, Lance and the car chief to straighten this mess out before it gets completely out of hand. Right now, the 88 is still in the hunt for the Chase, but something needs to change if they don’t want miss it entirely.
    By the way, if you want to hear some excellent feedback, listen to Bad Brad on the scanner. He is amazing at telling exactally what is wrong with the car and describing how the car reacts to any changes that are made. That kid is a champion in the making.

  15. Ginger Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Very interesting to find posts about Jr’s life. Jr goes here, doesn’t go there. Does this, doesn’t do that. Sounds like stalkers aboard or people who open their mouths and spew drivel just to entertain themselves. It would be nice to read facts from people who knew what they were talking about.

  16. The Old Guy Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    If one believes in Karma, Dale Jr. would be the poster child.

    An article that appeared in in early 2008 indicates that Jr.’s move to HMS may have begun as early as mid -season 2006. That article says that Jr.’s interest in Mountain Dew products led Pepsico into a pursuit of Jr.’s services.

    HMS has a pretty closed sponsor relationship with Pepsico as does Jeff Gordon.

    I firmly believe that Jr. made his decision to move to HMS long before his announcement that he wanted controlling interest in DEI. Something that he knew would never happen.

    What Dale Jr., and his sister, did to Teresa Earnhardt bordered on being criminal. To engage her in the type of fued that he did was simply a ruse to make his leaving DEI appear to be “The Evil Step-Mothers” fault and not his own decision. Which the article on fairly plainly lays out.

    Anyone who would be foolish enough to believe that a sponsorship with Pepsico, that Jeff Gordon had to sign off on, was completed in less than a week and that the #88 was procured for him along with a car design and associate sponsorship from the Nation Guard in that same “less than a week” is smoking something other than Tobacco.

    “What goes around, comes around” and it has caught up with Jr.

    Those Jr. fans who believe otherwise are simply in denial.

    Teresa Earnhardt hit the nail on the head.

    Rick Hendrick is reaping a ton on money from Jr.’s souvenir sales and will probably keep Jr. on contract until the fans finally realise what a farce they’ve been a victim of.

  17. Mark B Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    The problem is Jr.
    Hendrick Cars finished 1,2,3 last year
    Mark Martin’s cars a prepared in the same shop as Jr.’s.
    Although the 5 car isn’t great this year it’s still running better than the 88.

  18. steviewonder Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    The Old Guy is a fitting name since you are clearly senile. What a gigantic crock of s**t that post is.

    I’ve listened to Junior over the radio on several occasions and his feedback is sufficient to improve the handling of the car. The biggest problem the 88 team has in that regard is that, not only do they not improve the car, they consistently make it worse.

    At Richmond he started around the 20th position and on the first run made it up to around 12th or 13th. After losing 3 or 4 spots in the pits (as usual), Junior complained that the adjustments hurt the handling of the car.

    Darlington was pretty much a carbon copy of that. Didn’t have a great start, but moved up in the field on the first run, only to drop back after poor adjustments hurt the car.

    I am not under the delusion that Junior is the greatest driver ever as many of his fans seem to be. However, I fully realize that by winning 18 races in his Cup series career, he is more than just an average driver. He is fully capable of winning on a regular basis and contending for a championship and he proved that in 2003 and 2004. However, there need to be some serious changes from both the team and the driver for that to happen. I for one, hope it does.

  19. LB Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    You can rest assured that Stepmother Teresa laughs her a$$ off every week at her stepson’s escapades. She knows she’s getting the last laugh on this deal.

    Junior, you need to think about that when you are not focused and you blow up on a consistent basis. You need to see a sports psychologist and find out what is going on between your ears. And finally, you need to grow up! You are your own worst enemy.

  20. Marybeth Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Jr. gave Pops feedback and when he left the pit, his car better, not worse. Teresa opened the war with Jr. with an interview she gave to the WSJ.
    I thought that with all of the money Jr. is bringing into HMS would hire Addington for him. HMS is so broke that the employees had to take pay cuts. Jr. is paying their wages. Rick could not make his payroll if he let Jr. go. That must gall him.
    A poster left a comment Friday evening that Jr. should wreck his car first thing in Sat. practice, whatever the back up was it could not be worse and it was plain he would not be going anywhere in that car…& he didn’t. Can you imagine if RH let Jr. go and all of a sudden he was running in the top ten every week and winning…?
    Chris Meyers interviewed Rick Hendrick in the pre-race show. Into the interview Chris asked Rick about putting Chad with Jr. as cc. Rick, without pausing, looked puzzled & said that Chad & JJ work well together and wouldn’t want to break it up. RH never said a word about Junior, like it has never occurred to him to get a real cc for Jr., instead of the R&D guy. He just looked blank, which it made it plain for everyone to see that Rick could not care less about how Jr., runs. He just signed him for the money he brings to fund his other teams. What is surprising is that Rick let it all hang out so plainly for all of us to see, a rare honest moment from Rick.
    I hope that Jr. can somehow step back from all of this, and what it is evidently going to be for the next 2 and a half years. :) 84 races down & 96 to go. :)
    Sal Saglia on Bleacher Report today, 1/17, has a very good article.

  21. The Old Guy Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 9:03 pm


    there’s the denial I was referencing. Do some research.

  22. midasmicah Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think Dale Jrs heart is racing anymore. He just does not seem to be having any fun at all. Maybe being the son of a legend and all the expectations thereof have taken all the fun out of it. Something is very out of whack here.

  23. Overra88ted Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Old guy, I read the same article you refered to and thought the same thing. Jr. to HMS was in the works long before the public got a whiff of it. Jr. nation is always in delusional denial when facts just stare them in the face. most of them just flat out are not astute race fans.

  24. Overra88ted Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    MaryBeth, just what are you drinking with your AMP again? HMS is broke? Just plain stupid! One of the reasons given for the National Guard moving over to Gordon’s car last year was that they were not happy with Jr.’s appearence. Yea, that dumb A** beard works really well when you are sponsored by the military. MaryBeth, don’t you find it odd that Jr. Motosports lost Navy as as sponsor? MaryBeth, isn’t it odd that Mikey Waltrip won the only races of his career with DEI plate cars, just like JR.’s only plate win? Oddly neither one have done anything in a restrictor place race since thay lost their DEI hp/areo edge they had in 2000-2003. Marybeth, why would it be odd that Jr., with his God-given average at best talent only finish on the lead in 52 of 104 races at HMS?

  25. Texas Rob Says:
    May 17th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Even though they have the same number of career cup victories, 18, the comparisons between Jr. and Shrub end there. In fact, it is downright unfair to Jr. to attempt to draw any comparisons between them or mention their names in the same sentence. While Jr. is the most popular NASCAR driver of his time, possibly the most popular of all time, he has mediocre talent, and enjoyed all of his success while driving for his fathers once proud team where he enjoyed better equipment than he deserved and received a kind eye from NASCAR officials because it was the popular thing to do. Shrub on the hand is just plain talented, He doesn’t succumb to same pressures that Jr. does. In fact he expects more from himself than any fan ever good. In a word he is driven. Jr. will never be able to compete with that. Any further comparisons are unnecessary and unfair.

  26. MT Says:
    May 18th, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I am a Dale Jr fan also and EXTREMELY dissapointed with the results since mid year 2008 to current. I was also hoping that Rick would hire Steve Addington when he became available because I thought he could bring some leadership & guidance to the ‘Team’ (which includes Jr). I also agrre that Jr could improve with a CC like Pop’s, but Pop’s is over that grind of a season @ his age, if he was only 20 years younger? LoL. I have told myself that Jr has the desire, fire & will to win but sometimes wondered as much as that hurts to say. I would like to see Jr get the chance to drive JJ & JG cars with their CC’s & see the results as a comparison to the current situation.

    I only ‘HOPE’ that all of us fans get to see what can happen if this team and or a team with more changes can do for Jr and Hendrick Motorsports before 2013.

  27. Marcus Says:
    May 19th, 2010 at 9:16 am

    I think all the Jr fan’s agree that Dale is a small piece of the problem. I also think that 5 years straight of being kept out of Victory lane in all but 2 races, will do that to you. Sure, losing for 2 years or so might drive you to win even more, but at a certain point it just becomes so discouraging that your just “at the end of my rope” about it. Over at Roush Matt Kenseth made the Crew Chief change after 2 races and the results have been very good for him. Jr being at HMS does not have that luxury. Even if Dale wanted to cut ties with Lance, Rick would’nt let it happen. I think Rick’s business motto looks great because he lucked into 2 perfect tandems. Jeff Gordon/Ray Evernham and Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus. Outside of that…Who has he been able to really be extraordinarily succesful with? Rick Hendrick is no better a team owner than Richard Childress, Joe Gibbs, or Jack Roush. He as just lucked up on a couple good driver/CC tandems that made him look head above the rest.

  28. MT Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I agree Marcus. I was watching the Pit Crew challenge last night and was dissapointed (but not surprised) that Jr wasn’t there to show support to the team. Of course I (we) have no idea of his obligations/committments with personal appearences etc but you would have thought NOW would have been a good time to show up & support the team. Just say’n.