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If McGrew is only temporary, then who’s next for Junior?

By admin | May 31, 2009

By Richard Allen

If Rick Hendrick were on a once popular television game show he would have to answer the question, “Is that your final answer?”

Will Lance McGrew be the final answer Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s #88 team? The answer to that question remains to be seen but the thought has to be in Hendrick’s mind. This situation has to work out. There is too much riding on the final outcome.

Hendrick knew that right from the start. He said when he signed Junior that the pressure was on him and knew he would catch the blame if things did not go well for NASCAR’s most popular driver.

Obviously, if Junior wins several races and rises back into championship contention over the next few weeks, McGrew will be the man. However, if there is not a quick turnaround McGrew may go back to his job of running Hendrick’s part-time fifth team and a new pit boss may be brought in.

How about Greg Zipadelli? He has worked for Joe Gibbs Racing for a long time, so luring him away could be difficult. But, he is experiencing something new this season. Tony Stewart has left and newcomer Joey Logano has moved in. Perhaps ‘Zippy’ would relish the opportunity to again be in the midst of a high profile situation.

How about Robbie Reiser? Like Zipadelli, he has championship experience having guided Matt Kenseth to a title in 2003. At the end of the 2007 season Reiser was moved off of the #17 pit box and given a desk job at Roush Fenway Racing. He has indicated that at some point he would like the chance to go back to a crew chief’s role.

Or, perhaps most intriguing of all could be the possibility of former Hendrick employee Ray Evernham returning to the organization where he lead Jeff Gordon to three series titles. He has the experience and can handle the pressure of working with a high profile driver, but he has no real experience with the Car of Tomorrow.

Few people knew who Lance McGrew was prior to this weekend when he lead Earnhardt to a 12th place finish in the Autism Speaks 400. That, by the way, was the #88 team’s best non-restrictor plate finish in quite some time.

It may well be that McGrew will be the final answer for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but the term interim was clearly placed beside his name every time he was shown on television in Dover. That does not seem terribly reassuring. He may well need to look over his shoulder if he indeed does want the role of full time crew chief for the #88.

My guess is that by next season Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will have yet another crew chief. And when the next person is announced, fans will not have to ask, “Who’s that?”

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

Topics: Articles |

8 Responses to “If McGrew is only temporary, then who’s next for Junior?”

  1. The Old Guy Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Unlikely that McGrew will be Jr.’s CC for very long.

    Yes, at Dover we did hear Jr. make nice with his information exchange. How long is that likely to happen?

    Somewhere along the line, someone decided that Jr. is the Face of NASCAR and I see article after article about “where would NASCAR be without Jr.?”

    Jr. is NASCAR’s most popular driver. Is he really? Or, is he NASCAR’s most popular name?

    Sadly, NASCAR has a four time Champion, a three time champion and two time champion who, collectively, get less attention in the media than Jr. Someone tell me what is wrong with this picture?

  2. Overa88ted Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 8:26 am

    No excuses left for the for a OVER-HYPED, OVER-RATED AVERAGE AT BEST HIGH MAINTANENCE DRIVER. Only a revolving chief door the JR. in the future GET USED TO IT. Zipadelli isn’t going to leave JGR, Everham has said Gordon is the only driver he’d crew chief for and doesn’t desire to be a crew chief again, Reisner isn’t going to leave Rousch. Jr. is only a MAJOR HEADACHE AND DISTRACTION for HMS.

  3. cliff Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 9:50 am

    good article rich.. the oldguy the reason why Dale is the most popular driver is cause he has more fans think about that.. Dale SR never won the most popular driver award well maybe once Bill Elliott was winning them every year a onetime champ..and Overa88ted money talks in NASCAR did we think Tony stewart would go into co-ownership into a team and look at him now 1st in points and the “media” eating their words now doubting smoke’s ability well and Newman’s too?

  4. Overa88ted Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    DUH! Money does talk in NA$CRAP, buys alot of HYPE for an AVERAGE DRIVER. Too bad Dale Earnwhat? JR. hasn’t backed up all the HYPE on the the track, and hasn’t the last 5 (FIVE) years.

  5. Carl D. Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I think that if Jimmy Johnson wins another championship, then Chad Knaus will be Junior’s next crew chief. Johnson winning the championship year after year is an amazing accomplishment, but it stagnates the sport and hurts it’s popularity. So if JJ wins the title this year, I think the pressure on Hendrick from Nascar to break up that team will be tremendous, especially since Junior is Nascar’s hottest property. Just my opinion here.

  6. wej388 Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    jr haters never cease to amaze me.they hate jr more than those that love him…well love is a very moranic thing to say that dale jr is overrated.stats do not he having a bad year?oviously.does it tickle all the jr haters to death and give them some ammo to bash him?absolutely.but overated?cmon lets be grown ups here…18 cup wins,2 bud shootout wins,3 125 qualifying wins, a winston all star win,28 busch wins and 2 busch championships are not the things that appear on an “average” drivers hate him all you want and call him what you will but “average” he is not.

  7. Michael Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    The old guy has a great point, is Junior the most polular driver , or just most recognizable, lets be honest here, if u add the haters of Kyle Busch to his fans, wouldnt that make him more “popular”, just not as well liked?

  8. Mark Says:
    June 5th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    18 cup wins in 11 seasons??? Kyle Busch has almost that in half that time!!! Jr. is the BIGGEST FRAUD and cry baby in Nascar!!! and he got his cousin fired!!! Fraud Fraud FRAUD!!!!!!!!!!