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Junior doomed by pit strategy

By admin | August 10, 2008

By Richard Allen


When Dale Earnhardt, Jr. passed Kyle Busch to take the lead on lap 2 of the Centurion Boats at The Glen the crowd let out an enormous roar. Junior went on to lead a number of laps from that point.

As a matter of fact, Junior may well have had the best car in the field on Sunday. However, pit strategy doomed any chance he had to win.

As is often the case on road courses, teams attempted to make their final pit stop as early as possible. The mentality of planning for a road course race is essentially backwards from the mentality of planning any other race on the NASCAR circuit. Because laps under green flag take well over a minute, it is best to pit under green in order to hold track position.

Pitting under yellow after everyone else has pitted under green will bury a driver deep in the field. That is exactly what happened to Junior.

Beginning with 37 laps to go crew chiefs started calling their drivers in to make their final stops. Well after virtually every other team had been to pit road for the final time, the #88 car remained on the track.

Staying out too long had cost Junior valuable track position during the first round of stops as well. Because of staying out longer than everyone else, Junior fell from first to sixth after those stops due to the fact that others had been out on new tires clicking off fast lap times.

Lap after lap television commentators questioned the decision of the Hendrick Motorsports crew not to bring their driver in after they had reached the point of being able to make it to the finish on fuel and tires. Finally, crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. got caught with his car still on the track as the yellow flag waved.

By the time he left the pits Earnhardt found himself mired deep in the pack. He was never able to recover and went on to finish 22nd.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

18 Responses to “Junior doomed by pit strategy”

  1. stan love Says:
    August 10th, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Tony Eury Jr Blew it Big time. Junior is going backwards and his year may already be finished. I would fire Eury.

  2. David Says:
    August 10th, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Ditto to Stans comment! If Eury Jr had a strategy, I sure can’t figure out what it was!!

  3. Shaun Says:
    August 10th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Although I hate to say it, I think these others are correct. It’s a good idea that if you’re going to switch teams, you should go with a clean slate, especially after how the last year at DEI ended. While Eury Jr. could no doubt be a good crew chief some day and he does show some signs of it now, he has a long way to go before he’s as good as a Knaus or a Zipadelli. I think Rick Hendrick needs to look at a change, one that will tighten up the #88 crew and give them more of a fair shot every week.

  4. racinsince55 Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 8:09 am

    I said earlier in the year “You can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results. And, bringing Tony Eury Jr. over to be Jr.s crew chief is doing things exactly the same way.” Jr. nation scolded me severly when I posted this on several forums.

    The results are the same. One win for Jr. this year with about the ONLY good call Eury Jr. has made.

    Now, having said that and not being a Jr. fan, I think they should extend Eury Jr.’s contract for at least another five years.

  5. Larry Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Couldn’t agree more, I always thought bringing Tony Jr. to Hendrick was a mistake. But blood is thicker than trophies on the wall so Jr has to deal with it. Tony Jr has consistently taken a good car at the beginning of a race and turned it junk by the half way point. I’m afraid Dale Jr. is going to have the smell the roses and kick Tony Jr to the curb.

  6. timmer Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Now if JR won the race or finished in the top ten then Tony JR. is the best he made one race bad and you want to fire he .How the hell do you guys think Dale JR. is in second all year its all because of Tony JR.Knaus said 3 weeks ago that even himself is learning from Tony JR. and he is one of the smartest guys in the sport.
    Remember when Jr.switch crew chiefs a few yaers ago he was nothing .
    Remember where there are in points

  7. Callaway Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Firing Eury is not going to happen, good bad or indifferent he will be with Junior as long as Junior is at Hendrick. If anyone remembers the last time when the wonderful crew swap occurred with DEI it produced nothing but poor performance. I kind of feel this particular car has a habit of making good crew chiefs look kind of average there are just too many good cars this year with up and down showings. Has Eury made all the right calls no but has Knaus and Zippy looked unbeatable all year either no. Junior also has to get over this self admitted mental block he seems to have concerning some tracks almost conceding defeat before the race because he doesn’t like to race on certain tracks. Instead of going to Australia this winter maybe a road racing school may be in order or testing at more flat tracks since both of which he has always seemed to struggle at year in and out.

  8. Larry Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Did we forget Jr running out of gas last race? Or the countless other mistakes adjusting the car all season?

  9. Larry Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Believe me, I was on the Tony Jr band wagon for a long time, but the calls he makes are more often than not WRONG. He did the same thing at DEI. He seems to run his own race, problem there is he is not just racing against himself, he doesn’t look at what the other teams are doing and adjust his race strategy accordingly. If Jr is ever going to win a championship, these throw away races have to end.

  10. MRC Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Tony Eury Jr is probably the best car chief in NASCAR.
    He is not near as capable as a crew chief. The large majority of Jr’s victories in the 8 car came with Tony Jr as car chief and Tony Sr as crew chief. Rick Hendrick needs to figure out how to give Tony Jr some stragegy/race condition help without diminishing his position.

  11. Rowdy Shrub Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Hey Junior fans,

    Thanks for the extra bonus points.

    Those defending Tony Jr. don’t seem to realize that 2nd in points don’t matter.

    It’s Chase bonus points that matter now and now KB has 10 more thanks to that brilliant strategy.

  12. Don Wolf Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Poor Junior! I do not believe he will ever win a championship with Tony Jr. on his box. It never seems like Tony can make that last adjustment that would put Dale in the winners circle like Knaus or Zipp. I think Dale’s success had a lot to do with his abilities. Rick needs to have someone telling Tony what to do. There just is something there that does not click for some reason. being I am not a Dale fan, hopefully Hendrick will make no changes. GO KYLE.

  13. Bill Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 10:48 am

    “Rowdy Shrub” Perfect name for a band-wagon jumpin’ newbie!
    These kylee booschbag fan’s are a joke. What driver did they dump so they could jump on kylee’s band-wagon?
    You just can’t take these idiot kylee fans serious!

  14. RC Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I’m trying to figure out what there was to gain by staying out. Everyone had already pitted and were running 1-2 seconds quicker. They were well inside their fuel window already as well.

    Not a very good decision as there was nothing to be gained by the gamble.

  15. Rowdy Shrub Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Oh Bill!

    I can just feel the jealousy oozing from your post.

    Junior fans calling anyone else a band wagon jumper is the joke.

    Would he be your favorite if his last name was Smith or Jones or anything besides Earnhardt?

    btw: I became a Shrub fan when I saw him win in Bristol driving the #5 car.

  16. Ricky Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Bad strategy–no question–however I am wondering if Junior is as much to blame for this team not becoming hot and contending every week. He seems a lot like his daddy in that he wants the car ready when he gets there. The difference between the two is that senior could take a junk car and make it work. Junior seems to just think about counting money, drinking beer and making cool commercials and just hope he kind of “happens” into a title.

    From what I hear, and I love Junior, he can be a real p****.

  17. Brady Says:
    August 12th, 2008 at 12:21 am

    timmer- this was not just a bad call. This is something that even the most casual NASCAR fan KNOWS not to do- be the last guy to pit under green on a road course. Eury is either purposely sabotaging Dale Jr. or he does not have A CLUE how to call a race. Either way, he should not be crew chief. I have always liked Eury and have defended him in the past, but this is too much. Any fan in those stands could have made a better decision. You said “If Jr. had won the race, you would be saying Eury is the best” or something to that effect. But the point is, Jr. could not have POSSIBLY won being the last guy to pit. NOT ONLY were those guys running him down on fresher tires, but they were also going to pass him automatically in the case of a caution. BOTH of those things happened to Dale Jr. over the course of the Glen race due to Eury not knowing what he is doing.

  18. Sherry Says:
    August 12th, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Why is Tony Eury Jr so stubborn? He should get some lessons from the other crew chiefs on how to run these races. Should Jr perhaps try a different crew chief for a next year just to see how he does? It could not hurt too much, as he goes back further and further as the racing season gets going.