By admin | May 28, 2009
By Richard Allen
The time that almost everyone knew was coming is here. Tony Eury, Jr. has been removed as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Living here in the middle of Tennessee Volunteer country I have experienced first hand the plight of a major change at the top of an organization so many people care so much about. Phillip Fulmer was replaced as head coach of the Vol football program at the end of the past season. Many here are happy yet many here are anxious. Now, the program is in new hands, and somewhat unknown hands at that.
Junior Nation is experiencing much the same thing. Just like in Tennessee, now that the change has been made there is a certain degree of excitement, but at the same time, there is a sense of anxiety. The program is now in the hands of a someone else.
Eventually, Lance McGrew will take command on top of the #88 pit box. Brian Whitesell will call the shots this week in Dover.
Unlike Lane Kiffin, who replace Fulmer in Tennessee, McGrew comes from inside the organization he is now about to lead. He has been versed in the ways of the sport’s most successful team.
Truly now, Earnhardt is part of HMS.
Most notably, McGrew worked with driver Brian Vickers when he competed in the Busch(Nationwide) Series and the Sprint Cup Series for HMS.
Clearly, the time had come for a change on car #88. Junior’s performance had fallen off dramatically and was only getting worse. His 40th place result in Charlotte serves as evidence of that.
With all that said, the pressure now rests squarely on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. If he is still unable to keep up with his championship contending teammates his detractors will come out full force. They will point out that Junior must not be a good driver because he cannot win, even with the best equipment in racing.
However, if he wins and emerges as a serious title contender, his supporters will be able to reiterate their claim that their favorite belongs among the elite in NASCAR.
More importantly than anything related to fans and detractors, this change offers the driver himself the opportunity to refocus and rededicate himself. There must not be any more instances of missing pit stalls. He has to provide his crew with the information they need to set the car up properly. He cannot have a string of unforced errors on the track.
Junior won races early in his career with Tony Eury, Sr. as his crew chief. Later, after one crew change then another, his career went on a downward slide.
Now, we are about to find out once and for all whether Junior can get it done for HMS or not. The time is upon us. It is time to see whether he can return to the status of championship caliber driver or simply remain a souvenir mover. There is no more evil step-mother to blame, and now, there is no more cousin crew chief to hold responsible.
Both his supporters and detractors are poised and ready to claim that they have been right all along.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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