Instant Reaction: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin Change Crew Chiefs At Hendrick Motorsports

On the scale of NASCAR personnel changes, this is about as big as it gets.

Hendrick Motorsports not only switched the crew chiefs for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, but it rearranged its race shops to pair Gordon with Martin and Earnhardt Jr. with Jimmie Johnson.

Here's a driver-by-driver look at how today's news could affect each person:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Across the land, Earnhardt Jr. fans are screaming, "FINALLY!" Junior Nation was fed up with Lance McGrew, who moves from Earnhardt Jr.'s team to crew chief for Martin.

Together, Earnhardt Jr. and McGrew accomplished little and showed few signs of progress. Though each may be capable of winning individually, the driver and crew chief couldn't succeed together. Thus the change was made.

Earnhardt Jr. should have much more of a shot with Steve Letarte, who is an upbeat, energetic cheerleader-type of crew chief rather as opposed to the more hard-line, sarcastic McGrew.

On the days when Earnhardt Jr.'s car is struggling next year, don't expect to hear much sniping between Letarte and his driver. Keeping Earnhardt Jr. positive and focused will help the driver's morale and confidence if nothing else.

Letarte didn't win much with Gordon the last three years, but Gordon's cars were consistently strong and capable of running up front.

That Earnhardt Jr. will now be driving the same cars that have won five straight championships may be as significant a change as the new crew chief. Yes, Earnhardt Jr. won't have any excuses if he doesn't succeed – but it's doubtful he wants any.

This seems like a good move for Earnhardt Jr. fans.

Jeff Gordon – The biggest winner in all this may have been Gordon. Alan Gustafson is regarded inside the Sprint Cup garage as one of the elite minds – some put him on a level with Chad Knaus. Gustafson has crew chiefed for some very high profile drivers and been successful, which certainly gives hope to Gordon fans (what fans wouldn't love their driver to have a season like Martin did in 2009?).

Gordon and Letarte seemed to get along well, finding some measure of success, but ultimately didn't win a championship together.

As the pairing wasn't able to keep pace with the championship run of Knaus and Johnson despite being in the same shop, Gordon fans grew restless and questioned Letarte.

Gustafson is methodical and smart, and should get along with Gordon just fine. If a shakeup was what Gordon needed, he now has one of NASCAR's best crew chiefs atop his pit box.

Mark Martin – On the surface, this doesn't seem like a very positive move for Martin. He gives up Gustafson – a crew chief for whom he has often professed his love and admiration – in exchange for McGrew, who is less proven than Gustafson.

McGrew won't be able to talk back to Martin and challenge his driver like he did with Earnhardt Jr.; no one treats Martin that way. But perhaps a different tone and outlook could be beneficial to McGrew, who needs to succeed next year in order to make sure he has a spot as a Hendrick crew chief when Kasey Kahne arrives (likely with Kenny Francis in tow).

Martin fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach to the new pairing. Is Martin taking one for the team in his final year with Hendrick? He certainly seems to have come out on the short end of the stick by losing Gustafson.

Jimmie Johnson – The five-time defending Cup champion keeps Chad Knaus, but will now be working out of the same shop as Earnhardt Jr. instead of former mentor Gordon. How will that change the dynamic of Johnson's team?

In reality, it probably won't change much. Knaus and Letarte will still be working together running their shop (now the 48/88 shop instead of the 24/88), as they have done for all of Johnson's titles.

And Johnson's team will still have access to all the setups Gordon is running. Overall, this seems like a neutral move if you're a Johnson fan.

Rick Hendrick – No one wins 10 championships without having an excellent understanding of what makes a winning organization, and Hendrick waited only two days after winning his fifth straight title to make one of the boldest changes in years.

The man knows what he's doing and is brilliant at managing people. Clearly, he recognized that though Johnson's team was historically good, the other three cars weren't (none of them had wins this year).

It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say on Wednesday morning when he speaks with reporters, but this kind of move doesn't come without a lot of thought and consideration for what's best for his entire company.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.