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Eury Back In Garages Sans Bitterness

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 10 2009
Tony Eury Jr. has dealt with a lot of frustration and disappointment . (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Tony Eury Jr. has dealt with a lot of frustration and disappointment . (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Joliet, Ill. – In his final months as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Eury Jr. wore the look of a beaten man. No secret as to why. He was pounded into a light, flaky dough by people who demanded that somebody other than Earnhardt be blamed for Earnhardt’s failure to win Sprint Cup races.

On Thursday, Eury entered a NASCAR garage area for the first time since he was replaced as Earnhardt’s crew chief.

Not too surprisingly, the beaten-down look was gone. In its place was the look of a man who has emerged from a battle he was doomed to lose with a still-beating heart.

Eury nodded to old acquaintances, shook hands with old friends, got a good-hearted round of applause from a crew whom he used to compete against and talked.

The talk was about the past, present and future and it was all delivered sans bitterness.

If anybody in racing has the right to be bitter, especially about his past, it is Eury. But on Thursday at Chicagoland Speedway, he talked about the dark days with a smile on his face.

“I think it was mixed,” Eury said when asked his emotions when he was let go as crew chief for his driver, his friend and his cousin. “In one shape and form it was like, ‘Cool. I’m glad this is over with.’ On the other hand, I felt like I let my cousin down.”

Of the present, Eury said he realizes that as much he as he loves racing, as much as his life has been immersed in it, defined by it, it is nothing compared to family.

“In no way shape or form am I going to let this sport get in between me and Dale Jr.,” Eury said. “It was a job. I enjoyed being around Dale Jr. and still do. He’s family and we go deeper than this racing deal. I’ve always wanted him to have the opportunity, if he has to be with somebody else, if that bring him up to a scale, then I’ve always been for that.”

Eury was asked why he and Earnhardt were not able to succeed after moving to Hendrick Motorsports together last season. He was asked what had happened to chemistry that had allowed them to win back when they were together at the family business of Dale Earnhardt Inc.

“I think it just kind of ran its course,” Eury said. “There are just definitely some things that happened and evolved that brought us to this point. In general, it was time. There’s no other way to put it. We just needed to try something different. Dale is not getting any younger so let’s give him the opportunity to work with somebody else and try something. The road we were going down, it wasn’t a bed of roses so let’s try something different.”

Eury is at Chicagoland for this weekend’s Sprint Cup race for an interesting purpose. He is here to beat Earnhardt.

Eury is serving as crew chief for Brad Keselowski this weekend. Keselowski is driving the No. 25 car of Hendrick Motorsports.

Clearly, racing against Earnhardt is a lot more enjoyable for Eury than was racing with him.

“Just coming to the race track and being able to enjoy yourself,” Eury said about his improved mood.

“We’ve got nothing to lose and it all to gain.

“I’m just glad Rick (Hendrick) put me in a position where I could have a little bit more fun and do a little bit more.”

Instead of being angry with Earnhardt, Eury said he feels sorry for him.

“They put a lot of pressure on him to be somebody he is not going to be,” Eury said. “Dale is a great race car driver but I just think that he has got so much pressure on him that he doesn’t enjoy it right now. That’s what I told him, ‘Man, you just need to start enjoying yourself more.’ “

It is quite clear that Eury is enjoying himself more these days. A lot more.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at  jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 10 2009
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