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.
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