Tour Notes: Growing With McGrew
Concord, N.C. – If Dale Earnhardt Jr. fails to get back into the top echelon of NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors in the 2010 season, it won’t be for lack of effort.
The Hendrick Motorsports team, which also fields Chevrolets for four-time Cup champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, as well as longtime stock car star Mark Martin, is determined to give Earnhardt whatever it is he needs to overcome his recent on-track struggles.
“I feel we’re definitely going in the correct direction,’’ Earnhardt said Wednesday during a visit by the NASCAR Media Tour, hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A large part of Junior’s optimism is his growing relationship with crew chief Lance McGrew, who moved on top of the No. 88 pit box late last season.
Hendrick has had success with Johnson’s No. 48 team and Gordon’s No. 24 car housed in the same building and working toward a common goal. They’re attempting to get the No. 88 and Martin’s No. 5, in a building just across the parking lot, to have the same kind of symbiosis.
McGrew and Alan Gustafson, Martin’s crew chief, are working close together and the 88 and 5 have moved some personnel around to make things even tighter.
“It’s not like we’re bringing a whole new road crew, but we’ve definitely changed some things around,’’ McGrew said. “We’ve got a lot more 5 influence, which is good for us. We’ve built new cars, we’ve streamlined and become more efficient. We’re trying to do more with less, and that’s what we’ve been working on.’’
McGrew said he does feel the pressure to get Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most popular driver, back on track.
“To me, it’s more fan-driven,’’ he said. “I want the people at home to want to watch the TV and want to come to the race track and want to support Dale. They’ve been so loyal for so long, I feel Dale deserves a breakout year – and the fans deserve it and NASCAR deserves it.
“I mean, nothing could do better for the health of this sport than for Dale to have a great year. And there is no stone unturned for us to do that this season.’’
HE SAID IT: “We beat all the Fords, we beat all the Toyotas. Well, we’ve got to figure out how to beat Hendrick. Anybody has any insight tonight, we’ll be glad to add one more person to our staff at Penske Racing.’’
Roger Penske talking about his driver Kurt Busch’s fourth-place finish in a Dodge in 2009 behind Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets driven by Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon.
With Sprint Cup garage boss John Darby set to move up to a new administrative position sometime later this year, the speculation has begun about possible successors.
One who appears to be an obvious candidate is Joe Balash, the director of the second-tier Nationwide Series.
Asked about his intentions in that area on Wednesday, Balash did a nice job of side-stepping the question.
“We’ve got a lot of things going on with the Nationwide Series right now and I’ve got a lot of work,’’ he said. “The transition of John Darby from his current position to the new position is kind of a long-term thing and we’ll just let things play out as they do.’’
Asked if he has interviewed or will interview for the Cup job, Balance said, “There hasn’t been a process that has started yet with anything like that.’’
– Mike Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment