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It’s time to find the reason for Junior’s embarrassing performance

By admin | May 26, 2009

By Richard Allen

Is Tony Eury, Jr. to blame for Junior's poor performance?

A friend of mine who does not really follow racing asked me on Tuesday morning, “What happened to Junior?” He was thinking that to finish 40th he had to have crashed or had mechanical troubles.

Well, nothing like that happened. He ran all day, or at least what part of the race was actually run, with no crash or no mechanical problems and could only manage a 40th place finish. For that matter, Junior has finished 20th or worse in each of the last six races, except for the 2nd place he had on the restrictor plate track in Talladega.

So far, this heavily funded Hendrick Motorsports team has put together a season filled with pit road blunders and numerous other unforced errors. Junior is currently 19th in the Sprint Cup standings, 497 points behind leader Jeff Gordon and 203 points behind Mark Martin in the all important 12th position.

There is obviously a problem. How can a Hendrick team with so much funding be so bad?

The other three HMS cars are positioned inside the Top 12. Gordon leads the standings while Jimmie Johnson ranks 4th. Martin, who got off to a terrible start due to tire and engine problems early in the year, is now 12th. Each of those teams has won in 2009.

There is no reason to think anything is going to improve on the #88 car unless a change is made.

Perhaps the problem is with the crew chief. Since Tony Eury, Jr. took over as Earnhardt’s pit boss their success together has been very limited. The duo have become more known for their silly arguments over the team radio than for wins and top finishes.

One other possibility could be that the problem is with the driver. After all, the crew chief is not the one who has driven by or through the pit stall far too many times this season. The crew chief did not trigger the ‘Big One’ in Daytona.

In putting a race car on the track the crew chief is just one piece of a big puzzle. Engineers, engine builders and numerous other mechanics are involved in the process. Even if the crew chief were substandard, the others involved in that process could still put a good car on the track.

It is hard to imagine that HMS hires bad engineers and other mechanics. Their record as an organization proves otherwise. While the setups for each driver may vary, it would seem likely that each car that rolls out of the HMS shops is top quality.

Maybe Junior has become too comfortable with his lifestyle. Why go out and push so hard when the souvenir sales and personal services contracts are going to run into the millions of dollars no matter what the results on the track may be? Or, maybe he is pushing too hard, which has been the cause of the mistakes. Either way, maybe the problem is in the driver’s seat.

Rumor has it there may be a crew chief change coming soon for this team. That is something that should have happened two weeks ago so that the driver and the new chief could have had the all star race to use as a practice session.

Ultimately, a change is needed so that the real problem can be found.

Once a crew chief change comes, if one does indeed happen, the pressure will then rest squarely on one person. The fault will not be with Tony Eury, Jr. anymore. The fault will not be with the evil step-mother anymore. Any claims that Rick Hendrick is giving all ‘the good stuff’ to Gordon and Johnson are ridiculous, as Mark Martin has proven.

If there is a change there can be no more excuses. It will be time for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and no one else, to produce.

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

Topics: Articles |

17 Responses to “It’s time to find the reason for Junior’s embarrassing performance”

  1. T Arnold Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 5:24 am

    I agree that no one is without fault on the 88 team, however I get so tired of hearing about Jr missing the pit stalls. As anyone in the racing world knows, the spotter brings the driver onto pit road with the crew chief taking over as the car nears the pit. In Texas, Jr was ‘guided’ onto pit road only to hear silence on the radio. Jr asked for direction and was literally screaming ‘I can’t see a damn thing!’ at one point. Silence. No one told him where he was…he drove right past the stall. They later tried to save face by saying there were too many cars on pit road and it was better to just come back around, but I heard a driver asking for direction, and getting nothing. Hardly his fault…

  2. Ginger Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Ever think the problem might be the car chief?

  3. Cheryl Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Ever think the problem might be the driver? He needs to step up and take more responsibility. His fans need to acknowledge that his lack of communication with his crew might just be the problem and stop demanding Eury Jr.’s head.

  4. Robby B Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Ginger, I too believe that the problem lies between both Eury Jr and who ever the heck this car chief is. Good eye on that one, not many think about that.

  5. yankeegranny Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 7:47 am

    The driver does not have anything to do with the setup of the car when it unloads from the hauler. How many times have we heard Jr complain that the car was junk from the time it unloaded and never got better. Dale Jr was not responsible for the handling of the car last weekend. I think it showed just how good a driver JR is to keep that car from wrecking. I think part of the reason they haven;t changed crew chiefs is there is no top notch crewchier out there who is available. HMS missed the boat in letting Grubb go to Stewart-Hass, Evernham has contractural agreements, and Pops likes his current position with JR Motorsports. Who is left out there who can handle Jr and the pressure involved?

  6. Jeff Thomas Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Not the drivers fault for missing the pit stall???

    The car chief’s fault???

    The excuses and blame laying are running thin folks.

  7. overra99ted Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 8:20 am

    The change that really needs to be made is the driver, set JR. out for 4 or 5 races, to evalulate the crew and equipment. But this would only EXPOSE the driver as a FRAUD. Too late to put Mike Skinner in the #88, as TBR snapped him up. I’d put in Scott Riggs, a former Busch series Champion just like JR., to see how he could do in good euipment. Because 2 time Busch series champion, ” I could win if I had good euipment” JR. just can’t drive up to the HYPE. If JR. NATION DREAMERS think a new crew chief is the answer for their OVER-HPYED, OVER-RATED AVERAGE driver, how’d 3 different crew chiefs work out for JR. in 2005? The green flag has waved, the race is on and there are NO EXCUSES left for JR.

  8. Larry Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 8:56 am

    The problem IS the COT, Jr and Tony don’t have a grip on it. Jr can’t get the car to do what he wants, so to that end he has to adjust. Jr can drive, 17 wins proves that, but all the wins are in the old car for the most part, and all those wins except for 2 I believe, came with pops on the pit box. So he has NOT been a consistant winner with Tony Jr and he can’t get a handle on the COT. The COT is here to stay, Jr will stay the driver ( too much sponsor ship money for a change there) that leaves Tony Jr to bite the bullet or the cart chief or the team engineer. Rick will decide which. The loss of Darien Grubb to Stewart Hass was a mistake. Tony Jr and Darien made a good team together. Now I feel Tony Jr is out there by himself with no support below him. To all those that thing Jr can’t drive a car, you must be blind, he is one of the best at driving ill handling cars out there, he has been doing it for years just like his dad did.He has talent, the wheels have come off the 88 but the future still looks good

  9. Mike Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Jr has driven all of these tracks for years, and led laps competitively at all of them, and challenged for wins. A guy just doesn’t forget how to drive cars at the ripe old age of 34. Plate tracks go well for JR, because there isn’t alot the crew chief can do to a car there. I believe there is an info overload for Eury Jr at Hendricks, and he is a bit lost. Why else would they move him to Hendricks months before the opening 2008 season? Because he was that far behind the 8 ball, and he still is. I see JR struggling to hang onto an ill handing car race after race.
    He’s always been able to drive a car, I think he’s just so miserable with 09’s performance, he’s lost sight of the big picture.

  10. Lori Anderson Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 9:20 am

    It is funny, we only hear that jr. is running badly. You don’t hear much about Kevin harvick and the rest of the Childress drivers and how bad they are this year. We also don’t hear much about Carl Edwards who is running crappy and admits there is a lot of stuff wrong with the car to fix. We just hear that Jr. can’t drive. Well I guess he has a lot company with all the other Bad drivers out there.

  11. Sid Hawkins Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Looks like all fingers are pointing at the driver on this one. Doesn’t want to change the crew chief and wants to
    control changes made to the car during the race. Do you
    folks really think a good organization like Hendrick
    Motorsports has not had their other drivers in the cars
    that go to the 88 team to evaluate them? I think maybe
    Mr. Hendrick already has this situation figured out. There
    are contracts and sponsors involved. Perhaps M. Truex
    or B. Keselowski may have part of the solution. Next
    time you see a Hendrick car with primer and Jeff Gordon
    or Mark Martin behind the wheel with various crew chiefs
    and mechanics and engineers involved, consider that
    this car may be headed for the 88 paint booth. Wouldn’t
    that be interesting?

  12. Larry Zeigler Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 10:23 am

    It’s Jr. Jr hasn’t run well in Nationwide either. Different crew chief there.

    Jr didn’t run well when he and MW swapped crew chiefs at DEI either. Jr is just a below average driver now.

  13. John Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 11:49 am

    JR has lost his desire to drive and compete. Obviously Hendrick’s is now regretting his decision of replacing Kyle Busch with JT

  14. Jimbo Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    I gotta say that this year has been the most fun I’ve had following NASCAR in a long time. Having seen “the nation” trash almost all the other drivers for the past 10 years, it really tickles me to see them self-destruct. I fully expect to see them throwing AMP cans at their feeble leader soon. Next time you’re at the track, go by the 88 souvenir trailers with the little zombies lined up in front of them. A cool thing to do would be to just point at them and laugh like hell.

  15. Matthew Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Oh come on people. Junior’s not going anywhere. They’re not gonna take him out of the car. Junior’s been doing just fine in the Nationwide series by the way. Lost his desire to win? PLEASE… you people are just making up stuff now. I hear him on the radio every week and he is focused on getting the car running better and winning. It’s Tony Jr. The car’s not good to start the race in the first place, and Tony Eury Jr. can’t adjust the car. I would like to see either Tony Eury Sr. or people haven’t talked about this one… but what about Lance McGrew? He has too much talent not to be working with a driver and Hendrick has him over there.

  16. Michael Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Come on all you JR fans , how much longer can you blame every thing under the sun but the driver. He has to much other STUFF in the fire , his own team , bars , tv spots. With all the money some of these guys make its got to be hard to get up on the wheel. I think some times the racing just gets in the way of them making money.

  17. Ken Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Rick doesn’t want to fire Tony Jr. because he knows that when he does and Jr. continues to struggle with a new crew chief then even Jr.’s fans will start blaming Jr. The only way that Rick can keep the cash cow going is to have a scapegoat for Jr. because once that scapegoat is gone then so is the money. As long as fans think someone else is to blame then they’ll keep rooting for Jr.

    Jr. doesn’t know how to drive this new car or what kind of setup he needs in it. Instead of taking the time to get better and learn what kind of setup he needs he would rather go out and shoot commercial after commercial, host his own show, etc. etc. There are athletes like this in every sport. They don’t care about being the best they just care about the money. Jr. fits in that category. He has plenty of money now so he doesn’t care about his on track performance. That’s why he’s well behind his 3 teammates despite equal equipment.