Tony Eury Jr. focused on Swan Racing, doesn't harbor ill will toward JR Motorsports

Jared C. Tilton

If Tony Eury Jr. believes he got a raw deal at JR Motorsports, he doesn't show any signs of bitterness.

Though Eury Jr. said he "hated the way it went down," the crew chief also called it a "good change" last week in discussing how he parted ways with cousin Dale Earnhardt Jr. and ended up at the newly reorganized Swan Racing team.

Next season, for the first time in his career, Eury Jr. won't have any ties to Earnhardt Jr. or the Earnhardt family from a competition standpoint.

"I've had a good career with Dale Jr.," Eury Jr. said. "I've enjoyed everything we've done. We've had a good time together. Obviously, we've been together for 16 or 17 years. ... I was just looking for something different."

Eury Jr. left JRM in September, one week after his father, Tony Eury Sr., was booted from JRM's competition director role (a surprise to his son, who owns part of the company). Eury Jr.'s tenure as Danica Patrick's crew chief ended prematurely, and he only returned to the track one time – at the Charlotte race in October to give a proper goodbye to his former crew.

"It was a big load off my shoulders when I left," Eury Jr. said. "I would have loved to just finish out the year with Danica, but in all honesty, we didn't know where the company was going to be at the end of the year with that second team.

"Obviously, they've had a big layoff up there because it's going to go to a one-car team right now (with Regan Smith). It's best for both of us to do our own thing."

While he was away from the track, Eury Jr. thought about what he might like to do next. Was he done with crew-chiefing forever? After all, he figured, he could easily get a shop job with just about any team.

He spoke with team owners Chip Ganassi and Richard Childress and officials at Stewart-Haas Racing. He even flirted with the idea of becoming Patrick's crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series, but said it ultimately "didn't feel like the right thing to do."

But then David Stremme called. Stremme, who drove for Inception Motorsports and also owned part of the team, had gotten the attention of energy company CEO Brandon Davis and convinced him to buy the organization. Davis renamed the team Swan Racing – after his Swan Energy Co. – and hired former Ganassi competition director Steve Hmiel to be in the same role at Swan.

Hmiel, who had worked with Eury Jr. at Dale Earnhardt Inc., also called the crew chief and joined Stremme in pitching Eury Jr. to come aboard.

Those phone calls were all it took for Eury Jr. to be convinced Swan Racing was the right opportunity for him to get back into the sport as a crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series.

"I thought it'd be really cool to just have a small group and kind of build something from scratch," he said. "It was really intriguing. ... I just feel like it's a good fit to be able to build something."

With Eury Jr. and Hmiel working to "put the puzzle together," the team has expectations of improving its performance in 2013. Stremme won't have to start-and-park anymore, and the Toyota-backed organization hopes to take steps toward eventually becoming a contender (though not in the next couple years).

"It's all about realistic expectations," Eury Jr. said.

Ultimately, the new role could prove to be vindication for a crew chief who was cast as part of the problem at JRM. Eury Jr. (who remains a co-owner for now) had suggested JRM's lack of performance was due to having inexperienced drivers in its cars and said the team needed to hire a Cup driver.

After he left, that's what happened: JRM hired Regan Smith, who immediately won his first race with the team.

"There's not many Nationwide drivers winning those races now," Eury Jr. said. "...He went down there and showed what the company and what the cars are capable of. At the same time, you still had Cole (Whitt) and Danica finish relative to where they were.

"It just shows what we're capable of doing."

As for his communication with Earnhardt Jr.? Eury Jr. said he texted his cousin after Earnhardt Jr.'s concussion situation in October and said the relationship was "in good shape" now.

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