Last season, the news of Dale Earnhardt Jr. moving to Hendrick Motorsports sent shockwaves through Junior Nation. But once the initial shock wore off, there was a feeling of hope. Hope that Jr. would return to form, being a threat to win races week in and week out. But, the wins are not coming as fast as Jr. Nation would like.
If you take someone with the talent of Jr. and combine him with a dominant team like Hendrick, it’s a recipe for success, right? So, what’s missing?
Some people seem to think Tony Eury Jr. is the weak link. As Jr. was leading the Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen International, a track he rarely performs well at, Eury’s decision to keep him out cost the team big.
Eury Jr. is usually a play-it-safe kind of crew chief. Jr. nation often times gets frustrated at Eury’s decision to go for the good finish instead of going for the win. But, the one time Eury rolls the dice, fans still criticize him.
I’m sure that Eury knows that being the crew chief of NASCAR’s most popular driver is no easy task, and he makes his decisions based on the best interests of the team and his driver, not to appease the fans.
Some fans seem to forget that it was Eury’s strategy that got Jr. the win at Michigan International Raceway this year. They also don’t remember that it was Eury who used strategy to salvage a fourth-place finish after Jr. suffered damage to his Chevy at the Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway.
So, before fans start calling for Eury’s head, they should realize that he’s got one of the toughest jobs in NASCAR. And, thus far, he’s not doing too bad.
He’s managed to keep Jr. in the top 5 in points throughout the season, and he’s earned a win for his driver, all in his first season with a new team. Add in the fact that Hendrick has not been as dominant as it was last year, and you’ll see that Eury’s been a positive for the team.
Every driver goes through bad stretches and hits some bad luck. It’s the nature of the sport. (See Marcos Ambrose.) So, before you call for Eury Jr. to be replaced, compare Jr.’s stats this year to his stats last year.
I think most of Jr. Nation would be happier with Jr. being fourth in the standings with three races to go until the Chase, instead of 13th in the standings at the same point last year.