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Hendrick has to find a crew chief who speaks Junior’s language

By admin | July 14, 2009


 By Richard Allen

Listening to the in-car radio of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. during the 400 in Chicago revealed that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and crew chief Lance McGrew do not speak the same language.

McGrew speaks in very specific, technical terms when discussing the adjustments needed for the car. In other words he speaks Hendrickese. Earnhardt, on the other hand, speaks in broad, general terms when discussing the handling of his car. In other words he speaks Juniorese.

At one point McGrew explained what changes he was about to make to the #88 Chevrolet. There was a long pause over the radio. “Are you still with us, Junior?” McGrew asked. A seemingly disinterested Junior finally responded, “Yeah, but I don’t really understand anything you just said.” At which point McGrew simply said, “We’re going to make it better for you.”

As cars were entering pit road McGrew then explained, “The #44 car is in front of you. He’ll peel off and then we’re 15 spaces past him.”

“I don’t understand any of this jargon,” Junior declared.

It’s easy to see why Hendrick was reluctant to remove Tony Eury, Jr. from Earnhardt’s pit box. He and Junior spoke the same language. However, the results simply weren’t there and a change had to be made.

McGrew was placed with Junior as a temporary fill-in until a permanent replacement could be found.

If Rick Hendrick wants Junior to succeed, and obviously he does, he must find a crew chief with the technical skills to make the car run well but who also speaks Juniorese to make the driver work properly.

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

Topics: Articles |

26 Responses to “Hendrick has to find a crew chief who speaks Junior’s language”

  1. The Old Guy Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Why are we still discusing Jr. at this point in the season.

    Hendrick is getting everything from Jr. he needs. Sponsorship money and souvenier sales.

    It should be obvious to everyone by now that the problem is not the Crew Chief or the equipment.

  2. jerome Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Or Junior can work on learning some of the technical, including the language, aspects of his job.

  3. Liz Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 7:19 am

    To The Old Guy Says:
    I am a big fan of Junior’s, and I hate to admit, but that “Old Guy- -above” may be right. Such a shame. I wonder if Jr. knows this himself.

  4. Ken Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Unfortunately, the crew chief switsch exposed where the problem is with Jr. I hope he someday can work himself up to average.

  5. mrclause Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 7:25 am

    At some point the issue of jr is going to have to fall on jr. He has to become part of the solution. He has to make changes to fit with his team and the organization. His physical fitness, his ability to communicate, his mindset. To put the weight on his crew chief, his engineers, rick hendrick, isn’t totally correct or fair. At some point his performance has to be compared with his team mate’s and even shr. He has everything, and more, that the others have. He is the single non-performer.

    Maybe Theresa wasn’t as far off point as we blamed her for being when she said, he needs to decide if he wants to be a race car driver or a celebrity. Maybe jr deciding if he is a racer first and foremost or a celebrity businessman is what needs to happen. Before I get beaten down, I like the guy, would love to see him on top, but, at least for now, he’s not a closer of the deal. Part of that has to fall on him.

  6. Clint Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Remember when Harry Hodge took Cole Trickle in the bar and said “We’ll figure a language out” Thats what Lance needs to do, but they cant because of the testing ban. If the #88 could test with Lance and Jr, they would be a lot further along I think.

  7. Justin Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I agree with Clint, the fact that they cant communicate on a daily basis, in a real world environment (Jr on the track driving, and McGrew on the radio making adjustments, speaking the language, and so on) would make a huge difference.

    However, you cant dismiss the new car from all of this. Look at Jr’s numbers with the old style car. He was clearly a top 10 driver. Since the new car has taken over, Jr’s driving style simply doesnt mesh with the new car. You hear people in the industry talk over and over about how much Jr is like his father. Dale Sr had a “my way or the highway” approach. And I think Jr is a lot like him. He is trying to make his performance better, “his way”. I think he just needs to let the experts of the new car make the pit box decisions.

    And my last point. I dont think Jr is comfortable with the car yet. As ridiculous as that may be, after 3 years. Greg Biffle struggled with the new car for a little while, because the “normal” feel of the car, is loose. It isnt going to spin out, but it feels like it will. When he finally came to grips with that feeling being normal, his performance picked up. I think Jr needs to gain that confidence that his car isnt as bad as he thinks it is. When that happens, he will improve

  8. Mary Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I am a fan of Junior, but sounds like he needs to spend more time at the shop to learn the lingo.

  9. DON Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Jr. is simply NOT VERY BRIGHT! OR…maybe he needs a pill to help with his ADD

  10. DON Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Come on Mary…He grew up in the shop!
    I really think he has trouble paying attention. Look at the way he struggles in an interview. I think he’s a great person that maybe just struggles a bit with all of the everything Dale life.

  11. Frankie Lockhart Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    You so called fans are ridiculous. When a driver goes through hard times, a true fan sticks with them. Some of you that were fans of Earnhardt Sr. shouldn’t of jumped on the Jr. train after his death. I was already a fan of Juniors. I didn’t just start pulling for him on Feb. 18th 2001. Junior is not his father and no one should expect him to be. I was a fan of Dale Earnhardts, but I am also a fan of Dale Juniors. For the guy that wonders why we are still talking about him this late in the season——it is because we are fans of his. If you don’t want to talk about him, then it is real simple—DON’T. Leave us TRUE fans alone. GO DALE JR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Overra88ted Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    There’s just a endless list of excuses for OVER-HYPED and OVER-RATED Dale Jr. You can tell it’s a slow week in NA$CRAP this week with no race. Alot internet meaningless JR. articles popping up this week just looking for website hits.

  13. Givemabreak Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    You know so many people bash NASCAR with the dollar signs for the “S” in NASCAR and the drivers like Jr, if you don’t like the sport or the sanctioning body then shut up and stop commenting. NASCAR brought this sport from what it started as to what it is today and they made a lot of money along the way. Great for them, last I checked this is America. As for Jr, I am a Jr fan, I have been a Jr fan since he started driving in the Busch series. I don’t think the problem is talent with Jr, because I have seen him when the car handles well he can lead laps and win races. I don’t think the problem is with the crew chief, because Tony Jr can set up the car to run well and so can Lance McGrew. The problem is the communication between driver and crew is just not working. The equipment is obviously good, they just need to put together all the pieces. I just wish that the people who write the bashing coments would give them a chance to find the right combination and quit bashing them. I think this artical is right on, the crew chief and driver need to be able to speak with the same terms to communicate correctly. Maybe a different crew chief would work, maybe they need to work together more at the shop to find the common ground on communication. Just give them a break so they can work it out.

  14. The Old Guy Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I love it when people call themselves “True Fans” when they are in an indefensible position.

    Our course Jr.’s fans are still talking about him this late in the season. They’re wondering why a guy they put on such a high pedestal is letting them down.

    I just wonder why the media continues wasting time on him.

  15. amy anderson Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    I wonder if Jr. inherited his daddy’s way of doing things. DE just drove the car, told the cc what was wrong and that was it. He didn’t care what they did to it just so they made it better. If that is the case, it is unfortunate that the times and the cars have changed for Jr., but like others have said, he needs to get with the program and do some homework.

    I also wonder how many times he’s been tested for drugs. In listening to him in interviews, I sometimes wonder where he is cause he certainly doesn’t appear to be with it.

  16. 2farsouth Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    It’s the crew chief and the COT the kid has trouble with it and he’s not alone but it’s hard for him to get a handle on what the cars really doing and Eury, Jr. and Jr. never did anything together anyway the last real run he had was 04
    with Eury, Sr. we all saw the kid drive I know he can drive the old car anyway those new cars drive like crap anyway.

  17. Jay Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    The question that has yet to be answered with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is “Is he a Racer, or a Driver”? A racer is someone that will not stop at any cost to make himself and his team the one’s to beat. He will drive anything and will figure out how to make it better with his team. He wants to run good, run up front, and most importantly, he wants to win. A driver is one that is paid to do just that…drive. Shows up at the track, does the appearances and introductions, then climbs in the car and drives the race and then leaves at the end.

    Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, and Kasey Kahne are Racers. Dale Earnhardt was a Race, as was Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Tim Richmond, Cale Yarborough, and Bobby Allison.

    Dale Jr. is a Driver. Period. It is hard to say that, because I am a fan of his. Yes, I rooted for his father as a die-hard, and Jr. gained my fanship by default, but has he ever really “gotten up on the wheel” and just got it done? I was excited about how he was driving in the Daytona 500. Once he was fighting for the Lucky Dog, I actually saw a fire in his style. Yes, he played a part in the accident, but he was getting it done, and that is something that we have rarely seen out of him during his career. As a fan, it almost seems like he is more worried about not offending anyone on the track, and cannot drive and ill-handling car…ever!

    Evidently, even though he is a historian of the sport, he failed to pay attention to what his father’s driving style was all about, and what it gained him in the end…respect….oh, and 7 Championships. Shame on you Junior, because @ 34, your career is over, and there isn’t much to write about, except for all the what ifs.

  18. Marybeth Wallick Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    One year ago right now, in the COT, Jr. was 2nd in points. Marybeth

  19. QQQQ88 Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I bash Junior to aggravate his “true fans”, that mindless mass of lemmings who believe in all things Earnhardt. Here is an idea: How about having Junior stop collecting his 32 million dollars a year until he is able to earn it on the track.

  20. Overra88ted Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Hey QQQQ88……I like your line of thinking!

  21. nicki Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I just don’t understand why people always have to be so critical all the time when it comes to Jr. He is human- and as humans we go through some tough times. why question his driving? His records shows he is good. I think all of you people just need something to complain about . Why always compare him to his dad ? He is not his dad. Let the Guy alone along with his fans. True fans of Jr will always stick by and defend him. We just don’t like him if he wins races. It goes beyond that. That is why we are TRUE FANS of his . That’s is what is it all about sticking with your driver. And I have not seen, the average reporter or the average Joe out there racing much. You have to be good to drive. SO find something else to complain about. You seem to be so good at it.

  22. John Langley Says:
    July 16th, 2009 at 7:28 am

    I am sick to death of JR BASHERS. I am a JR FAN, Always have been and Always will be. First of all he can drive, and here is my proof.

    You do not win two back to back Championships in The Busch series by luck! He did it by dominating. Yes I said dominating. He took alot of those veterans to school in that series.

    Second when he moved to the cup series He won Two races his rookie year, had only been done once before, and he on the Winston, which had never been done by a rookie.

    Third, he has 18 wins plus several non-points wins. You do not win in NASCAR without talent. I have seen guys win on Luck once or twice but those guys have one or two wins. That ties him with Harry Gant, That puts him within 3 wins of Guys like Bobby Labonte, Benny Parsons, Davey Allison, Neil Bonnet, Buddy Baker etc… That also puts him ahead of drivers such as Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick.

    So before you RUN off at the mouth about how Jr can’t drive look at the facts. He will go down as a Legend in the sport Just like all of the Guys I mentioned.

    Jr Haters are really newbie NASCAR fans who like to get a rise out of the loyal JR Nation fans. Know your facts before you Run your mouths and look like fools with no sense of NASCAR history!

    GO DALE JR!!!!!!

  23. Frankie Lockhart Says:
    July 16th, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Hey QQQQ88, I don’t like your line of thinking. I think that you need to get a life and quit worrying so much about Jr. Guess what? Us “true fans” don’t care what you think. Now, I’m sure that you’ll come back with a funny little post about how Junior doesn’t deserve all of his fans, money, or recognition. Also, I’m sure that you will have something else to say about us “true fans”. My question is this- Why don’t you post things about the driver you like? Why do you want to try to lead a lynch mob against Junior all of the time? Personally, I think that people like you are pathetic. You never have anything good to say. Always’re ridiculous.

  24. QQQQ88 Says:
    July 16th, 2009 at 10:46 am

    See, it works!!

  25. andy sutton Says:
    July 16th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Something is wrong for sure…… does Mark Martin join Hendrick and work with a different crew chief….and BAM! 4 Wins this season…..when you hear Mark Martin on the radio he communicates with his crew chief giving him all the little things the car is doing and they agree on the changes they make…..and what the heck…..Mark is driving a fash car and kicking some butt……

    …I think it comes down to the fact that Jr really doesn’t know the COT good enough to explain all the chassis agjustments that need to be made.

    heck…..if 50 year old Mark Martin can communicate with a much younger crew chief as he has…..that’s pretty telling right there…..the driver has to be able to communicate exactly what ‘he’ needs to drive the car fast… appears that Jr cannot or will not do that.

  26. old an tired Says:
    July 18th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I think they should let OLD Eury in there for a couple a races. But what do I know Im just a fan. I think a lot of the drivers need to spend a little more time in the shop. Bring them all back down to earth.