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Woody: Will Splitting The Juniors Produce Intended Results?

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 28 2009
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Eury Jr. have been separated by Rick Hendrick. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Eury Jr. have been separated by Rick Hendrick. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer 
RacinToday.com

The splash that so many had been anticipating finally was heard yesterday morning.

Tony Eury Jr. was thrown overboard.

He’s no longer crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Brian Whitesell will take over this weekend at Dover – and with Eury’s exit goes another excuse.

The Eury/Earnhardt combination wasn’t working. They managed one win in 48 races and Junior had sunk to 19th in the standings.

Last Monday’s Charlotte debacle was the last straw. Junior finished 40th, two laps down, and it would have been even worse if rain hadn’t cut the race short.

Two questions:

1. What took team owner Rick Hendrick so long to make the change? By delaying the inevitable did he fiddle away Junior’s chance to make the Chase?

2. More importantly, will the change make any difference? Or is Eury simply the fall guy for deeper problems, a human sacrifice to appease the racing gods?

I suppose you have to give Hendrick credit for being loyal for so long. He waited and waited to pull the plug. But as he finally admitted, a shakeup had to be made.

I don’t think all the problems could be blamed on Eury. I’ve always thought that a crew chief is like a football quarterback – he gets too much credit when the team wins and too much blame when it loses.

But that’s the nature of the job. He makes an easy target, perched up there on pit road.

When Dale Jr. was struggling at DEI his fans said his cars weren’t up to snuff.

So last year he jumped to Hendrick Motorsports which over the years has fielded a fleet  of championship-caliber cars for three different divers. But Junior didn’t fare much better after his change of scenery.

After 12 races this season Dale Junior’s three teammates all have won: Mark Martin twice and Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon once each. All are in the Top 12 in the standing. Junior is mired in 19th.

The success of his teammates magnified Earnhardt’s struggles. How come their cars are so fast and his is so slow?

Hendrick at last realized that he can’t keep twiddling his thumbs while the sport’s most popular driver slowly sinks from sight.

So now the change has been made. The shakeup has happened. And the Junior Nation waits with bated breath and crossed fingers to see if Earnhardt’s performance is enhanced.

It’s unfair to dump too many instant expectations on the new crew chief, just as it was unfair to dump too much of the blame on the old one.

But who said life – or racing –was fair?

A lot of folks involved with the team are making a lot of money to produce, and they haven’t been doing it. So now the screws have been tightened, another excuse has been eliminated.

And the question looms large: If this doesn’t do the trick, then what? 

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 28 2009
One Comment

One Comment »

  • marc says:

    Better question: Will splitting the Juniors produce anything worse?

    Not likely so the move was a gimme.