Published on May 28th, 2009 | by Michael J Smith0
Analysis: Changes At The No. 88
After the ouster of Tony Eury Jr as crew cheif for his cousin, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Junior Nation collectively exclaimed, “Finally!”
For quite a while now, Jr Nation has been calling for Eury Jr’s head — or job as it were. Eury Jr took a lot of the flack for Dale Jr’s lackluster, on-track performance. After all, Jr was in arguably the best equipment, but the wins weren’t coming. There was a lot of speculation that a change was coming. So, Rick Hendrick was forced to make a change, despite seeming reluctant to earlier.
The question that remains to be seen is whether or not this will make a difference.
Whitesell has been part of seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship teams in a managerial role. He also won two out of seven races with Jeff Gordon, when he served as interim crew chief for Gordon in 1999 after Ray Evernham’s departure.
Whitesell’s experience and expertise should help turn around the performance of Dale Jr. But, Whitesell last served as crew cheif in 1999, when the COT didn’t exist. Does Whitesell know enough about the COT to help set up Dale Jr’s car? That remains to be seen. But, he should still be able to help improve the team’s performance.
McGrew won the 2003 Busch (now Nationwide) Series championship with Brian Vickers, and was Vickers’ crew chief for his 2006 Talladega victory — Jr Nation surely remembers that victory. He also led Tony Stewart to victory earlier this season at Daytona in the Nationwide car.
Similar to Whitesell, McGrew has winning and championship experience, which should help Dale Jr’s performance.
Add in Rex Stump and Tom Stewart, and the four of them should be able to set up a car suitable for Dale Jr to drive to better-than 40th place finishes.
Don’t expect a night and day switch. Jr isn’t likely to win Dover or Pocono. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle up until the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July.
That’s not to say that these moves are not good. I just think that he’ll need time to adjust to his new crew chief, and vice versa.
Dale Jr, over the radio, is not a driver like Mark Martin. Dale Jr doesn’t tell his crew chief to take wedge out or to go up or down on a track bar adjustment. Instead, Jr tells his crew chief that car is pushing in the center of the corner, etc.
This, I don’t think, suits Eury Jr’s style. Eury probably needs more information about the adjustments, not what the car is doing. I think this is why I they couldn’t turn it around.
All in all, I think this is a good move for Dale Jr. But I would also like to see Eury Jr become a crew chief for someone again. I think he could do very well with a different style of driver, maybe Brad Keselowski or Mark Martin.
One last thing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alan Gustafson as Dale Jr’s crew cheif next year.