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