Ok, the big thing is Dale Jr now has a new Crew Chief in Lance McGrew who will assume his interim duties next week at Pocono because he is already involved with Brad Keslowski's Cup entry for this weekend.
In addition to McGrew, Rick Hendrick has also added General Manager Brian Whitesell, and chassis specialist Rex Stump to the 88 team.
Hendrick has three cars in the Chase and he wants that fourth one in there too and he has now pulled out all the stops to get that 88 car into the top 12.
But was anyone really surprised by the move to replace Eury Jr? Come on be honest. I thought so - this really isn't as big as everyone is making it out to be.
Hendrick is a business man after all and he is in the business to make money and when one of his teams isn't performing he has to do something to change it or potentially lose sponsors (however I don't see any sponsor that would want to leave Dale Jr - although they could demand to pay less for poor performance, I know I would regardless of who the driver was.
It was no surprise here either, I just thought maybe that Rick might have done this move before the All-Star race 2 weeks ago, but you never know who exactly was around the Earnhardt pit area during that time either. Whitesell and Stump could have easily been there quietly watching and learning about the 88 team and no one really would have been the wiser as to why they were there, after all it is their job to look out for all of Hendrick's teams it is just that now the 88 car will be the subject of more primary focus.
Just for you Earnhardt fans I have the complete transcript of the Rick Hendrick teleconference held earlier today regarding the changes to the 88 team.
Just jump on over to the transcript now ...
Teleconference Transcript - Rick Hendrick
MODERATOR (JESSE ESSEX): “Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for your time. We understand it’s a travel day for a lot of people. A few housekeeping items before we get started. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be available on Friday afternoon -- that’s tomorrow in the Dover media center. The time on that is 2:30 p.m. Lance McGrew and Brian Whitesell will be available in the media center at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.
“Mr. Hendrick is here, and he’s available to take some questions. First off, Mr. Hendrick, why don’t you address the announcement this morning and talk about some of the key players involved in this effort with the No. 88 team?”
RICK HENDRICK: “Thank you, Jesse. Like Jesse said, we apologize for catching people this close to the race, but this decision was just made late yesterday and last night. I want to first say that I’ve never felt any different about the talent that we had one the team between Tony Eury Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The frustration has been for the fans, the sponsors and everyone involved in the team, especially the team itself. It just seems the harder we work, the further off we get. So it became very obvious that we just needed to make a change, and we talked about it at the first of the week and all day yesterday and that decision was made, and I do want to emphasize one thing -- I’ve read and heard some stories here that Tony Eury Jr. was fired. That’s not true. First, I kind of want to address him. The guy’s got tremendous talent. I think a lot of him. I wanted him to be a part of our organization for a long, long time. He has accepted a new role in the R&D department. He’s very good at working with SIM and simulation, and his job now is going to be to try and help us win a championship with all the teams and he’s looking forward to that. You can talk to him next week. He’s going to take a few days, and he will be available next week. But I wanted to clear that up.
“Now I’m going to talk about the folks that are going to be involved with the team that maybe you know, and maybe you don’t know. Brian Whitesell has been a team manager and was the architect of the 48/24 team putting it together and growing the 48 team, and he’s been involved in the 5/88, but now he’s going to be directly team manger of the 88 team. He is an engineer, has been a crew chief. He’s won races with Jeff Gordon, one of the most talented guys that we have, and he’s been with me for, I think, about 15 years, so we’re really going to lean hard on Brian. Lance McGrew will be the interim crew chief, and Lance has done a super job. He has worked with Dale, and they’ve had success together in the Nationwide car. (Lance) he has won Cup races. He won this year with (Tony) Stewart at Daytona. Lance is a super-strong crew chief and really a field general that does a great job calling a race. We’re assigning Rex Stump, who is our lead chassis engineer that works with all the teams. He’s going to be there on point working with all these guys. If you remember T-Rex the car that Jeff Gordon won the race at Charlotte with and then it was outlawed -- that’s where the name T-Rex comes from. He’s our lead chassis engineer.
“We’re pulling out all the stops. We’re going to do everything we can to get this team to where it needs to be, and I think the thing that I want to say, too, is it’s hard to put your fingers on what the problem is or was. We just feel like with all the frustration, we just need a fresh start. I made that decision and Tony and Junior have accepted it, and I think I’ll let them speak for themselves, but everybody has said from the very beginning if we need to do it, then let’s do it. We’ve all given it the best shot we could, and the guys that are going to be lined up now on this team, my commitment and every employee and driver and engineer and crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports, I’ve tapped them all and said look guys we’ve got to fix this, we’ve got to all work on it. We’ve just rolled up our sleeves, and we’re going to refuse to lose. We’re going to refuse to quit until we get it fixed.”
MODERATOR: “Thank you, Mr. Hendrick. We’ll now turn it over to our operator and open the floor to questions from the media.”
Q. CAN YOU CLARIFY TONY’S ROLE WITH THE R&D TEAM? WILL IT BE SIMILAR TO WHAT LANCE IS DOING? WILL HE BE THE CREW CHIEF WHEN BRAD RUNS?
HENDRICK: “They’re just going to swap spots there and that’s exactly right.”
Q. AND WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT 2002, BUT REALLY 2003-04 AND NOW, DO YOU SEE ANYTHING DIFFERENT? IS THERE ANY QUESTION THAT DALE EARNHARDT JR. IS MENTALLY TOUGH ENOUGH TO GET THIS DONE IN 2009?
HENDRICK: “I believe that Dale is plenty tough enough. He has done everything I’ve asked him to do. He’s on a workout program now. He’s engaged with the engineers, and I think the frustration comes when you’re trying and it’s just not happening. I think a lot of it is just the simple fact that we’re showing up and we’re just not able to run like we think we should. If testing was allowed, I think we could go figure it out; but for whatever reason we just missed it somewhere. He knows how to drive a race car. He hasn’t forgotten how to drive a race car, and he’s mentally tough enough, for sure, to get the job done. I’ve seen this with everybody from Jeff Gordon to Jimmie Johnson. I don’t care who you are. When you get in a situation when you just get so frustrated nothing seems to work, and that’s why we’re going through this change to see if we can’t spark some magic. And I wish I could say that it’s any one thing over the other. And I think the frustration after Charlotte just reached a point with all of us that we just said let’s try something different.”
Q. ONE OF THE REAL IMPORTANT THINGS OBVIOUSLY DURING THE RACE IS THE COMMUNICATION THAT A DRIVER HAS WITH THE CREW CHIEF IN TERMS OF GIVING HIM FEEDBACK AND MAKING ACCURATE ADJUSTMENTS. HOW BIG OF AN ISSUE DO YOU THINK THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN IN THIS SITUATION?
HENDRICK: “I think this car calls for a tremendous amount of adjustments during the race. I’ve said this, I guess it was a few hours ago, to someone inside our company. I’ve never listened to a race that the car wasn’t off a pretty good amount because of the lack of downforce. The car was designed this way to make it more competitive. You might hit it once in awhile like Mark Martin did at Phoenix, and you’re just dead on it and you run the whole race. But I can look back at times at other races when our other cars won this year when we were out in left field, and we worked at it and got it back. A critical part of fixing the car is the communication between the driver and the crew chief, and I think some of the frustration may be that these guys have been together so long in so many situations that another attitude or another way of getting the information. Junior is going to have to adapt to a new way of giving information because he’s going to be listening to someone who’s asking for the information in a different way.
“That will be a big part of the success going forward. If you’ve been successful doing something a certain way, you don’t want to change much. This is part of this new effort is that Dale’s going to have to break the corner down different for Lance and for Brian because they’re going to be asking for information in a different way. This is part of the process we’re going to start working on this weekend.”
Q. COUPLE OF QUESTIONS – ONE ABOUT REX STUMP. HOW IMPORTANT IS HE TO THE ORGANIZATION? HOW WILL HIS ASSIGNMENT TO THE NO. 88 NOT AFFECT YOUR OTHER CARS? WHY NOT ALLOW EURY JR. TO REMAIN THE CREW CHIEF AND ASSIGN HIM TO THE TEAM IN THAT REGARD?
HENDRICK: “I think if you go back to what Tom said a minute ago, Rex has already been in and around that team. He works with all the teams. He is available as needed. He will still be back at the shop during the week and can answer questions for the guys as they need it. But his focus right now is to help us get this car going. He’s a very, very bright individual. He understands these race cars. He has tremendous respect and any, probably most of the stuff we come up with, he’s the guy that does it. So, right now we have one boat that has a hole in it, and we’ve got to fix it. So his effort is going to be there. I don’t think it’s going to bother the other guys.
“Why we hadn’t done this before now is we’ve given as much as they wanted or needed. I want to say this again, Tony Eury Jr. has been open-minded. He will try anything, he will listen to anyone. He will go get the setup from another team. He has not been stonewalled any of the assets that we have there to use. I think this is a pure and simple situation if you’re frustrated and everybody’s frustrated and everybody’s kind of down. If you go back to play the game with the same deal, you’re going to be looking for the same results. We feel like, I feel like, if I shake it up a little bit everybody will stand up a little bit. We’ll try some new things; we’ll try some different things and I think we’ll all be better off.”
Q. CAN McGREW WIN THIS JOB WITH A GOOD PERFORMANCE OR ARE YOU GOING TO BE LOOKING OUTSIDE TO OTHER TEAMS OR ELSEWHERE IN THE GARAGE FOR A POSSIBLE PERMANENT REPLACEMENT?
HENDRICK: “Sure he can. We’re open. Lance and Junior, or Brian and Junior might be magic. That might work fine. But we’re going to keep all options open, and we’re going to take it a race at a time.”
Q. WHAT WAS THE TIPPING POINT TO MAKE THIS DECISION AND HOW MUCH OF THE PERFORMANCE OF THE NO. 88 HAS TO DO WITH HOW MUCH PRESSURE THEY HAVE PUT ON THEMSELVES?
HENDRICK: “I’ll answer that (second) part first. I don’t know how Tony Eury Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have managed to function with the pressure that they have on them. I feel a lot of it, but nowhere near the pressure that they do. At least I’ve got other things that occupy my time, and I can celebrate when one of the other teams win. But the load that Dale Earnhardt carries on his shoulders I would not want. Not for all the publicity, for all the most popular or all the money or whatever it is, I would not want that much heat on me. And the same for Tony Eury Jr. And Tony Eury has had some of the toughest skin to take some of the things that he’s taken from fans, media, everybody. And that’s why when you guys ask me what I was going to do, I would say I don’t know anything to do -- here’s a guy and this car was our best car last year and then all of a sudden the wheels come off, and what’s the deal. You get behind, you try different things. You go in one direction, but you just can’t put your finger on it. I think I’m rambling and going back over it again. Again once you’ve got all that pressure on you and you’ve got frustrated and you’ve got to handle it out in front of the world. You just get wound up so tight that it’s hard to do your job.
“I’m hoping what we’re doing is going to take some of the heat off these two guys and put some of the heat on some of our other people and let us help them carry that. They’re much better than they looked at Charlotte and Darlington, and I think the load and the pressure and the frustration just finally got to everybody till we had to call a timeout. We’re getting ready to go to Dover, and we’re at the office talking to Doug (Duchardt, vice president of development) and Ken (Howes, vice president of competition) and all our guys, and we’re analyzing things and looking back at the setups and said we just can’t go through this anymore. For the sake of those two guys. You just can’t handle so much, and I think this will take some of the heat off, and we’re just going to try a different approach.”
Q. HOW WILL YOU EVALUATE WHETHER THE McGREW/EARNHARDT PAIRING IS SUCCESSFUL? SHOULD THEY MAKE THE CHASE? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE?
HENDRICK: “There’s not going to be any magic wand that’s going to turn it upside down overnight but our goal is to make the Chase, and we think we can do it. Some guys are going to have to have some bad luck and we’ve got run a ton better. We’ve got to be up there running in the top 10 and top five and going for wins.
“All I can tell you is we’re going to do all we can do. And I take more responsibility for this than Lance McGrew or Dale Earnhardt or Brian Whitesell. I can’t drive the car and I can’t crew chief the car, but we’re going to have every soul that’s involved in that organization trying to make that deal better. I think we’ve been in a funk that I can’t explain and they can’t explain. Nobody can explain. But our goal is to try to get a lot better and make a real run at this chase and get back on track.”
Q. WHY DID YOU PICK McGREW?
HENDRICK: “Lance has worked with Dale. He’s won races with just about everybody over there including Tony Stewart. Mark Martin has won races with him and Mark has been very complimentary of his talent. He’s running Brad this weekend. He’s worked with the engineers; he’s worked with everybody there. He and Brian have worked together.
“So you’ve got a situation where I think Tony Eury can have input into the other teams, now he has a tremendous amount of knowledge. He can go run the seven-post for Steve (Letarte, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet) or Chad (Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet), and he can do things. And it will give him a new goal and a new way to use his talents to help the other guys. I think Lance on the box and Brian as an engineer and Rex are as good as I’ve got and they all work together. So that is a huge piece of trying to make something work. Junior has worked with him on the radio and he’s driven his cars so I think that part of it makes it almost a natural.”
Q. DALE EARNHARDT HAS TALKED OFTEN ABOUT HOW MUCH HE LOVED WORKING WITH TONY EURY JR. DOES WORKING WITH LANCE HELP HIM STOMACH THIS?
HENDRICK: “That’s a hard question. Success will take care of anything. You love working with someone, but when you’re not getting the job done, when it’s not working and you become and everybody’s kind of scratching their heads then you have to change something. You just can’t go back the same way. I talked to Tony this morning. He was bubbly and laughing. Sure they would like to work together, and sure, they’re cousins and they care for each other. But both of them want to be successful and I think both of them want to be successful first.
“They’re still kind of working together, not in a one-on-one situation. Tony is still going to have input into the company and that car; he’s just not going to be there as the voice talking to Junior at the track.
These are not people that Junior doesn’t know. If this had happened going into our relationship or the first 90 days of last year then he would probably have a hard time with it, but I think he’ll adapt and we’ll see.”
Q. CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG, BUT I WOULD ASSUME THAT YOU PREFER TO MAKE A CHANGE LIKE THIS PRIOR TO THE SEASON OR TOWARD THE END OF THE SEASON. WAS THERE SERIOUS TALK PRIOR TO THE SEASON ABOUT THIS OR WAS THE START THAT THEY GOT ON LAST YEAR ENOUGH TO GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE THAT THEY COULD TURN IT AROUND?
HENDRICK: “I was convinced a few weeks ago that we were going to be fine. I was in the middle of it with Ken and Doug, our competition directors, the engineers, Tony, Dale -- we all sat down, and we had a game plan. In that meeting I was convinced that we would get it worked out and I told all the people on this call a few weeks ago, and even at Charlotte, that I was convinced we were going to have a good Charlotte.
“This was a situation that I felt like needed to happen. We couldn’t wait till the end of the year. I’m repeating myself, but I just didn’t feel like it was fair to our sponsors, the fans or those two guys to show up anymore changing nothing. Not going back the same way. We were working our butts off behind the scenes, but it wasn’t producing any fruit. That’s why I hate doing it this time of year, and I hate having to do it period because I’d rather work things out. My M.O. is to fix it, not change it. But in this case, I thought it was time for that.”
Q. IS THE REASON LANCE IS NOT ON THE BOX WITH THE NO. 88 THIS WEEKEND BECAUSE HE WAS SCHEDULED TO WORK WITH BRAD?
HENDRICK: “Yeah and the other thing is Lance has set up Brad’s car, the cars are already gone. Brian Whitesell has been right in the middle of setting up Junior’s car. The (Nos.) 5 and 88 were almost identical, and Brian has been all over that car. Brian also has been a very successful crew chief. He’s the team manager. Rather than ask Lance to get in there with a car he had nothing to do with and try to shoot in the dark while he’s got a car he’s trying to get in the race, it made more sense to go with Brian.”
Q. DALE HAD BEEN SO VOCAL ABOUT STICKING HIS ENTIRE CAREER WITH TONY. HOW DID YOU DELIVER THE MESSAGE TO HIM? WAS IT A SENSE OF RELIEF? HOW DID YOU DO IT?
HENDRICK: “It was a phone call. I talked to him on the phone, and I talked to Tony face to face last night. So we’re all going to talk some more, and really you’ve got to look at it like this -- one of the things that Tony said to me a long time ago is, ‘Hey, if I need to do something else here, I will. I just want to be here.’ And Junior’s willing to do whatever, too. Tony Eury hasn’t left the company, and he’s still going to be working on Junior’s cars in a round-about way. I think that they need the break, and that’s the way I talked to them about it.”
Q. JUNIOR SEEMED DEJECTED AT CHARLOTTE. DOES THIS TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF OR, IF YOU CHANGE CREW CHIEFS, DOES IT PUT THE PRESSURE ON HIM FOR COMMUNICATING AND DRIVING THE CAR AND IT BEING ON HIS SHOULDERS?
HENDRICK: “I’m hoping that it’s going to give him a spark to work with the new person with new ideas, and I’ve heard him work with other crew chiefs in our group and the Nationwide cars. I think he’s going to take this opportunity to step up even more than he has to. Let’s face it. Whether it’s Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson or whoever it is. They are the guy that leads the team, and when they tell the team, ‘Hey guys we can get this done,’ -- that’s going to rally the guys. I’m not saying he would have raised his hand to say it’s time. I’m not saying that at all. He’s bound to have some reservations about it, but at the end of the day, we’ll never know unless we try something. If we stay like we are, we’ll never know and this way we’re going to start eliminating things and we’re going to get results.”
Q. WILL THIS CREATE SOME OPTIMISM?
HENDRICK: “Again, nothing will make anybody feel any better than running well, and I was convinced we could go to Charlotte and run good in that all-star race, and then we’d go into the 600 and run really well so that would give us the spark to ignite us and get on a roll and go forward. But that didn’t happen. You can have all the pep rallies you want, but until you win a game it’s hard to show up thinking you can. At the beginning of the year, everybody thinks they can win the championship and everybody’s focused on winning races. We’re trying to start over again and give all of us a little spark to make our organization better or make that team better, give Tony some relief where we can use his talents, and he’s not beaten down and Junior gets excited about something a little bit different. Hopefully it will make us all take a deep breath and step just little bit harder. If it backfires, I’ll take all the blame.”
Q. YOU HAVE A LONG HISTORY WITH TONY EURY JR. DOES THAT MAKE THIS MORE DIFFICULT OR EASIER TO HANDLE BECAUSE YOU’VE KNOWN EACH OTHER FOR SO LONG?
HENDRICK: “I think in a way it made it a little bit easier because Tony knows when I told him I wanted to be with this company, he knows that. He knows I’m not just saying that, and I do care about him a lot. If it weren’t for his granddad, I probably wouldn’t be in this business. I think the world of him, and he’s a very smart guy. He can be a contributor to our organization. To me, it hurts me to see those two guys as frustrated as they’ve been, and I can’t help them. You can see it in their faces. I’ve seen it again. I’m repeating myself but I’ve seen Jeff Gordon get out of the car and throw his hands up, and I’ve see Jimmie Johnson do it. We had some kind of spark to get the car back to running good and everybody feels better about it and everybody’s confidence is back. If you’d asked me three or four weeks ago if there was any doubt that this would turn around, I’d tell you absolutely without a doubt. But Monday, we were pitiful and all of us were embarrassed. But Tony is part of the family, and he will always have a job with me as long as I’m racing if he wants it. And he says he does, and I’m excited about it. He is very, very good in this area. He likes this area, and there will be no pressure on him. I’m excited about seeing him smile and laugh and be Tony again.”
Q. WHEN DALE EARNHARDT JR. FIRST CAME OVER TO HENDRICK, YOU MADE A BIG DEAL ABOUT THE PRESSURE ON YOU. HOW MUCH PRESSURE WERE YOU FEELING IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS? DID THE SPONSORS PUT PRESSURE ON YOU FOR A CHANGE?
HENDRICK: “The question that you hear on Monday and Tuesday is ‘What’s wrong? What can you do to help us?’ Clearly they were not happy with the way that we’re running. The pressure I thought I would have having these guys -- I was concerned with having to manage Dale Jr., the superstar. I thought that was going to the pressure. I never thought it would be a competition or a failing to run good pressure. He’s been unbelievable. I haven’t asked the guy to do one thing that he hasn’t done. He has fit in like a glove. That part I worried about was nothing to worry about. This pressure is the worst kind of pressure because the better you have teams do and then you have a team falling behind, then the world feels like you aren’t paying attention to it. I take that personally. Then you’ve got the pressure of it’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., the most popular driver in the sport and the guy that the sponsors have endorsed and he’s endorsed them.
I can tell you this is the most pressure that I’ve felt in racing since I don’t know when. Hopefully we’re going to ease some of that in the weeks to come.”
Q. DOES THIS DECISION BRING RELIEF?
HENDRICK: “Now I’ve got a new kind of pressure of whether I made a mistake. I feel relieved because I feel like we’ve got a new direction, and I’ve challenged everybody to let’s go get it done. I’m confident we will. And I just feel like I have at least given everybody an opportunity to take a deep breath and they won’t be talking about it. And the media won’t be writing about the cousins fighting and the cousins this and the cousins that. We won’t have that to talk about. We’ll just have to talk about whether I made a mistake or not. I think this is going to help us all go to the track with a little bit of relief. The pressure’s going to be there, but I think we’re motivated that we’re at least trying to do something different.”
“For the record these are the hardest questions you guys have ever asked me.”
Q. THERE’S NO DOUBT JUNIOR IS THE MOST POPULAR DRIVER IN NASCAR. BUT HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR NASCAR TO SEE HIM PERFORM BETTER? AND THE OTHER QUESTION I HAD FOR YOU WAS, IF THEY DON’T MAKE THE CHASE THIS YEAR, IS IT POSSIBLE THAT BASICALLY THEY CAN START BUILDING FOR NEXT SEASON?
HENDRICK: “Jeff Gordon has missed the Chase, too, and I keep using Jeff as an example, and I know Jimmie has sweated through making it. I think the change we’ve made is an effort to run better. To run better we should have a shot at making the Chase. If we miss the Chase, I’ve got to see some real momentum in this team before the end of the year. I can’t go into the offseason thinking it’s ok and we’ll be good next year. It’s the same thing I said earlier. You’ve got to see some improvement or you’ve got to change something and NASCAR needs Dale to run well because he’s got a tremendous following. We need him to run good because he’s in one of our cars and the pressure on me is that he could have gone anywhere he wanted to go. He picked our place to come. That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on me to get the job done. I don’t ever want to let anybody in our company down. I feel that. I will do whatever it takes to get him where he needs to be.
Q. WHAT WAS DALE JUNIOR’S REACTION TO THIS? WAS IT A WEIGHT OFF HIS SHOULDERS? ALSO, REX STUMP WAS IN CHARGE OF THE COT DEVELOPLMENT – WHAT ARE YOU PULLING HIM OFF OF?
HENDRICK: “He’s (Stump is) always working on the future and one of the things that has happened -- with no testing and NASCAR not changing the car -- we don’t have quite as much to do with the really out-there development that he had to do with this car, and right now it’s a good time for him to jump on this project. We’ve used him before, we just never told you guys. We put him in situations and we sent him with other teams. He’s been with Chad, he’s been with Jeff, and he’s been with Alan. He’s been doing this kind of behind the scenes, but this is different. This is going to be showing up there with them at the track and going through the process of getting the car ready.
“And the other question (about Earnhardt’s reaction), I can’t answer that. I think you have to ask him that. I think he’s probably got mixed emotions, and he and Tony and I have had this conversation at the end of the year -- we had it a few weeks ago. Probably three or four weeks ago and both of them said, ‘Hey if you think we’re better off apart, then you’ve got to tell us that,’ and I promised both of them, when I get to that point, I’m going to tell you. And I got to that point, and I told them. I think 24 hours after I told them, both of them feel a little bit better, actually Tony was laughing excited, and I think Dale was looking forward to getting to Dover. He’s not looking forward to the media as much as the race, but I think both of them feel a little bit of relief.”
Q. WHY IS McGREW LABELED AN INTERIM CREW CHIEF? IS THAT SOMETHING YOU DO FOR ALL CREW CHIEFS MID-SEASON?
HENDRICK: “I think because we made a bunch of changes and we’re shifting people around, that’s just standard. If we were at the end of the year, beginning of the year, and we’ve all had a chance to look back at our record and say, ‘Yeah this is what we want to do,’ then we’d put it in stone. This is just kind of standard procedure for us mid-year change. This is kind of how we approach it.”
Q. WILL McGREW KEY IN UPON EURY’S NOTES OR WILL HE START FRESH?
HENDRICK: “I think the good news about our organization is there’s a file on each car from each race of every adjustment that was made and how they work and why they didn’t work and the Monday morning debriefs. He’s got all that to lean on, but again, I think this sport changes from week to week from tire to tire from pavement to pavement and what you’ve had doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work the next time you go to the racetrack. So we’re going to draw off the other cars and we’re going to draw off their knowledge and we’re going to have a baseline off what we have. Then we will adjust accordingly, and I hope I answered your question. But they know every adjustment that was made to each car during the practice and the race, so he’s got all that information that he can pull from.”
Q. HAVE YOU AND LANCE TALKED ABOUT AS LONG AS YOU SEE POSITIVE IMPROVEMENT, HE’LL STAY AS THE INTERIM?
HENDRICK: “I think it’s a situation that we just don’t know. The chemistry is so important and Lance has been a great asset of our company. He has been the guy that’s like that -- you could put him anywhere and he-could-do anything-kind-of-guy. And he’s shown us that he’s got tremendous talent -- he’s taken a car and won Daytona; taken a rookie (Brad Keselowski) in his first time at Darlington and run seventh and been competitive throughout the race. But at the end of the day, they’ve got to mesh, and they’ve got to like working together, and there’s got to be good chemistry. We’re just going to take it and I’m not meaning one race at a time. It could be three races, five races, the end of the year. We’ll just see how things progress.”
Q. ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE REAL-TIME INVOLVEMENT ON THE BOX OR ARE YOU JUST GOING TO MAKE NOTES AND HAVE A MEETING BETWEEN THE THREE OF YOU TO EVALUATE?
HENDRICK: “I don’t get involved in trying to second guess the guys that are trying to call the race. That’s not my job. But when you look at that team -- there’ll be four engineers there plus Lance, and those guys know what they’re doing, and they can figure it out. With me it’s more about chemistry and how they’re performing, preparing the cars, showing up at the track and how it’s flowing. Then we’ll look at the results, but I don’t try to make calls on the box, so I won’t be doing that Sunday.”
Q. HAS THE ADDITION OF MARK MARTIN ADDED PRESSURE ON EARNHARDT?
HENDRICK: “I think Mark has put a little pressure on all our guys. He’s been a big contributor because he’s got so much knowledge of the car, and he sets a tremendous example for the drivers from a standpoint of taking care of the crews, knowing how to adjust the car, what’s important and how to run a race. Jeff Gordon told me this a year ago when I talked with him about Mark coming on board. He said ‘Hey, he’ll make us better.’ Anytime you’ve got three cars that are running good and you’re not there, it’s a lot of pressure. And a year ago about this time, Junior was our best car, and Alan was feeling the pressure because he and Casey (Mears) weren’t performing, and it was working on him a ton. When you’re in a four-car team and you’re the bottom car, it’s a lot of pressure. His performance has added a little pressure, but I’d say what he’s brought to the table has more than just made up for the pressure.”
Q. HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IS KNOWN FOR ITS TEAMWORK. WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A TYPICAL HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS EMPLOYEE?
HENDRICK: “I think it’s a lot of the times it’s the individual and again with Tony and Tony said and meant it, ‘If you think I should do something else, just tell me, but I want to be with the company.’ And Alan Gustafson said that a year ago, and we work hard to take care of those folks and show them that we care about them. We’re going to take care of them and hopefully create a work environment where they feel like they want to be involved, and they don’t want to have to leave to go find something else. We work hard in that area and the loyalty pays off a lot. There’s time and time again we’ve had guys that would step up. A Darian Grubb when Chad was not able to go to the track; just different people along the way have taken the challenge and don’t mind stepping back and doing something different. We try to promote that -- yeah, Dale Junior and Tony Eury were the two with the (No.) 88 team but really over 200 people cosigned that note, and we all feel like we’ve got a responsibility to make that deal work.
“I can’t tell you exactly how it’s generated, but I’m proud of our people for rallying and when Mark Martin calls and says, ‘What can I do?’ And so does Jimmie and Chad and Steve -- they all want to do what they can to help. I’m very proud of that and I feel like that’s one reason we’ve been as successful as we have.”
Q. DID YOU CONSIDER GOING OUTSIDE OF THE ORGANIZATION TO FIND A NEW CREW CHIEF?
HENDRICK: “Absolutely. I’m open to talented people. Tony came from outside so yeah. I’d look at folks from the outside, but we had to make a decision based on what we know. The reason we went inside, I think Lance is an excellent guy, and I know that he and Brian and Rex together make a pretty strong tandem. You can’t go out and find that kind of talent. But yeah, I’m not opposed to somebody from the outside. We’ll just have to see.”
Q. DOES IT TAKE A SPECIAL PERSONALITY TO BE DALE EARNHARDT JR.’S CREW CHIEF BESIDES THE THICK SKIN?
HENDRICK: “I don’t know. I’m not trying to be smart, but I don’t know. We haven’t tried it. I’ve listened to him with other crew chiefs, and he does a good job with them. Certain drivers like crew chiefs to give them information in a certain way. But I think Junior is wanting to do good, and I don’t think he’s going to be set in his ways as the way the crew chief has to act or react. It’s always a learning experience when you make a change. If I sat here and told you I knew how this was going to turn out, I’d be lying to you. But we have got too many talented people, and he has too much talent for us to fail. Now saying that, we’ll just have to tune it every week.”
Q. JUNIOR HAS A UNIQUE WAY OF COMMUNICATING WITH TONY EURY JR. HOW WILL HE HAVE TO ADJUST HIS APPROACH AS A COMPETITOR WITH SOMEONE ELSE ON THE BOX?
HENDRICK: “I’ve seen him adjust to a different voice on the radio. We’re all looking for some positive results, and he wants to run well. And he will be a team player, and he knows the effort that we’re putting into this and he’s going to do his part. I’m not really concerned about so much personalities and how they mesh. I do know that Lance and Brian Whitesell can just about get along with anybody, and Dale’s not a hard person to get along with. He’s a very easy to get along with kind of guy. I feel like the stumbling block for all of us is the pressure associated with Dale Earnhardt Jr. I’m doing my very best to tell these guys, ‘Look, we’re going at something totally new. Let’s just roll our sleeves up as a team. No one person is going to carry this thing. We’re all going to do it together and we’re all going to make some adjustments and we’re going to go out here and get the job done.’ So I’ve just got faith in the organization and faith in Dale Junior and these guys that we will make the team better and show some improvement or a lot of improvement and tweak it week to week. It’s almost like you’ve got to go to school or you’re having to do it under the watchful eye of the world. But this is a professional sport and we’re supposed to be pros and we’re supposed to be the best when you get this level. We’re supposed to be able to handle a certain amount of pressure. We’re big boys, and we’ve just got to go get it done.”
MODERATOR: “Mr. Hendrick, thank you for being so generous with your time today. We appreciate all the time with the media, and we’ll look forward to seeing everyone this weekend at Dover.”
HENDRICK: “Thank you, folks.”
Whew, had enough now?