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Woody: Time For Change At Hand For Earnhardt

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 28 2009
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had a tough season. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had a tough season. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Have you heard the big news out of Hendrick Motorsports regarding Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

Me neither.

Nothing’s happened.

The silence is deafening.

Here it is mid-week, with Dover looming, and so far boss Rick Hendrick has announced no changes, no shakeups, no tweaking on Junior’s team.

That’s incredible no-news. The sport’s biggest star is quickly sinking from sight and nothing’s being done about it.

Most of us figured Monday’s Charlotte debacle would be the last straw. Junior finished 40th, two laps down, in one of NASCAR’s premier races. He’d probably have been even more laps down if rain hadn’t mercifully stopped the race.

Junior’s season has steadily regressed from wobbly to bad to awful. Monday it hit rock bottom. It reached the embarrassing stage.

So why hasn’t the boss done something?

This is not to say that crew chief Tony Eury Jr. is to blame for the problems. Throwing Eury overboard won’t be a magic fix. But at least it sends a message that somebody at the top acknowledges that something’s wrong and is trying to remedy it.

Sometimes on a sports team you need to make a change simply for the sake of change. Shake things up, try some different combinations. Fire the coach, switch quarterbacks, run some new plays, change the color of the jerseys. Anything.

Goodness knows, Junior’s team has nothing to lose at this point. How’s a shakeup going to hurt it? Knock it from 40th to 41st?

Again this is not a rap on Eury; Dale Junior hasn’t been blameless. He has botched some pit stops at times it seems that his mind’s not entirely on his business.

Remember what ex-boss/step-mom Teresa Earnhardt said when Junior was driving for her: “He needs to decide whether he wants to be a rock star or a race driver?”

The Junior Nation howled at the audacity of the Wicked Stepmother, but now some Junior fans must be starting to wonder if perhaps she had a point.

But ultimately if fingers are to be pointed, I believe they should go in the direction of Rick Hendrick. He’s the boss. He’s the man who has the authority – the obligation – to shake things up.

When things are going well, as they are with Hendrick’s three other teams, he gets a big slice of the credit. When the wheels pop off, as they have with Junior’s team, then by the same token he deserves a big part of the blame.

Through 12 races, three of Hendrick’s drivers have won – Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have one victory and Mark Martin has two. Junior has zero.

Jeff, Jimmie and Mark are all in the top 12 and if the Chase started today they’d be in it.

Junior, meanwhile is buried 19th in the standings and his Chase hopes are fading fast.

If Dale Jr.’s season is to be salvaged, it’s time to get on it. What they’ve been doing for the first 12 races clearly isn’t working; the team’s going backwards.

Indecision is a bad choice.

Junior’s season is a train wreck and Hendrick can’t continue to be an idle bystander.

Remember how Nero fiddled while Rome burned? I can assure you that Junior’s fans have had their fill of fiddling from the front office.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 28 2009


  • Leon Hammack says:

    Very interesting article. I concur that now Rick Hendrick MUST step in and “shake things up”!! I also agree that Tony Eury, Jr. isn’t necessarily a bad crew chief, but that combination is failing to work this year.

    Now is the time to act, before the whole season is completely a lost cause.

  • Jack says:

    The 1st thing I would do and the fastest way to find the problem is to to put Jimmy in the 88 and Jr in the 48 for 2 weeks and I think you will find out who is droping the ball and where.