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Tour Notes: Growing With McGrew

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 20 2010
Crew chief Lance McGrew and his driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Crew chief Lance McGrew and his driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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.

MOVING UP?

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 mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 20 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • paul says:

    you have to be kidding.They have already raided the 48 guys and now the 5 guys.Two championship cliber drivers and teams will lose key personel so the 88 can run top ten.

    How about hire a real driver for the 88 and leave the 5 and 48 alone. Thats all we need is more coverage of ole junebug running 15th.

    some don’t get it.The reason people are turning away from the sport is all the 88 undeserved coverage already.If you arn’t a jr follower there is no place for you in nascar.

    Go to a race and its jr on the tv screen
    listen on the radio and you get jr reports about every 20 laps
    watch it on tv and watch darrell and larry give every excuse under the sun except the real reason for jrs woe’s[ability]Larry hollering here comes jr while he pass’s for 12th to 15th and darrell ’s every weekend [I have a good feeling about the 88] It’s gas dw its gas!

    here’s a typical race called.

    They are 3 wide going into turn 1 did you see that dw. naw I was watching jungbug pass derick cope .Did you see how jr just blew by him.

    Hey Larry did you see Carl catch that thing he was 30 degree’s slideways. naw the weather report says rain is coming so jr better get on the move if he has a chance today.He’s on the move up 2 spots to 28th.

    hey dw that kyle can flat drive a car did you see him off 2

    naw You know that 88 crew chief isn’t giving jr what he needs.Eury needs to go and get some new chemistry going for ole junebug.

    Hey dw what are jrs chances with lance next weekend. He’s gonna be tough

    move forward to next week as dw say’s You know that lance ain’t giving jr what he needs.What do think larry mac. well My note’s says jr is due and its raining in england tomorrow.I like the weather channel.

    Down on pit rd with jrs crew chief the announcer says the crew diden’t get jr the feel he needed .Its loose in pushing in the middle. tight out camber gain is at its optimal and the greenhouse is off on the chassis and the front splitter is hitting the track.

    The in car camera focus’s on jr as he saw’s the wheel off turn 4 and the leaders are right behind him and he needs a caution bad.

    caution is on the track there is dabree in a motorhome off the minnesota cost at mile marker 12 and leaves are blowing them across the rd and into the ocean front property.

    Well kyle wins another one what did you remember most about todays race dw. Ole jungbug and lance are getting better togeather and there 22 place prove’s it. Hey get jr he’s getting out of his car.Jr what do you think you missed it today. ogggh weeel ugggh lance ugh ugh well the car was tight ugggh and well ugggh.There you have it jr said he’s can’t wait to get to bristol next weekend.

    dw says you know I just have a feeling ole junebug may have a little something for em next week his daddy loved the place and he may rattle some cage’s next week

    moving forward a week and the green is out as jimmy slides under newman for the lead did you see that dw….naw you know that 88 crew chief ain’t giving jr what he needs.Larry mac says jr better get on the move the leaders are moving up on him quick.

    and the caution is out on lap 32 for debree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!