REPLACING CREW CHIEF DID NOT HELP JUNIOR

(Editor’s note: This piece was somehow deleted in the last few days. Personally, I blame Gremlins. And Brian France. And the Car of Tomorrow. In any case, I am reposting it, along with your comments, which I copied from a cached version of the original article.)

In early September I compared Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first 12 races of the season with crew chief Tony Eury Jr. (pictured above) to his second 12 races of the season with replacement crew chief Lance McGrew. My conclusion: it was unclear that any improvement had been made because Junior’s performance was similar under both crew chiefs.

Since then, 12 more races have passed, which means there is more data to review. I have drawn a new conclusion, and it’s one Rick Hendrick might not like. There was a severe drop-off in Earnhardt’s performance after Eury was fired.



First off, let’s consider the performance of Earnhardt over the course of the season, which I color-coded into three chunks. You see Eury’s time in orange, and the post-Eury experience in yellow and green. The green period is everything since the last update.

Remember the last two races in yellow were top-10 finishes, so there was momentum going into the final third of the year, but the final stretch proved to be such a struggle that it inspired a series of posts on this site documenting Earnhardt Jr.’s season of unrelenting misery and inexplicable failure. Zero top-10s in the last 12 races, and most of the time he didn’t finish on the lead lap. Notice the summary breakdown of those three parts of the year. It reflects the big drop-off that’s occurred. (If you want to know what the Watermills mentioned in the graphic below are, go here.)

Finally, look at the points accumulated in each third of the season. See how Earnhardt’s ranking has fallen, while his teammates finished 1-2-3 in points during the same 12 races. The fact that Earnhardt is right between Bobby Labonte and Scott Speed is stunning, considering his equipment.

I don’t know what the problem is with the 88 team, or how Rick Hendrick is going to turn it around. I do know this: Those numbers are scary.

(All Left Turns contributor Dale Watermill is the creator of the Watermill Score and the FLOPPER Award and edits the racing statistics blog 36 Races. E-mail him at 36races@gmail.com.)

Related links:
Congratulations to Paul Menard, your 2009 FLOPPER Award winner
Title race would be close under different point system
Winning in NASCAR is like counting cards
Chase bonus points are meaningless
Jimmie Johnson has most points at Chase tracks this season
The Watermill Score: How to win a Sprint Cup title

Comments with original post:

Anonymous
Dale Jr just simply does not fit at Hendrick Motorsports. Junior just has one win in two years, that’s not good at all. in 2007, Junior was running way better than he is in 2009 with Hendrick. Yea he had 12 engine failures, but if those engines never blew, he’d have more better finishes. When Junior switched over to Hendrick, I knew right then that something like this would happen. Junior needs to leave the team before it gets worst. Teresa and Junior need to quit fighting like cats and dogs and work together like family should, its uncalled for, expecally in this economy. I know one thing and Dale Earnhardt Sr. would not allow that to happen. If Junior would have went to RCR, things would have been way better and easier for him and he would be in a more happier mood than he is now because Junior right now is just breaking down and frustrated in an emotional breakdown.

Anonymous
RACING DMP
I think your drunk on the JR KOOL AID, Crew chief isnt the issue. How about all the times this year when Jr missed his pit stalls, which happened numerous times, thats not crew chiefs fault. Jr is a very poor communicator, anyone that has ever listened to his radio will realize that. Just look at Jr in his interviews, he has a very hard time completing a sentence, and says uh after every other word, and then he stares at the ground or off in the distance the entire time. Which shows he has no faith in himself. A good driver will find a way to work with a crew chief, jr being the spoiled brat he is, is expecting a magic crew chief to show up and just make him everything perfect for him. Jr needs to man and drive what he has in front of him, which happens to be the best equipment in nascar.

RacingDmp
Points, Laps Led, DNF, Top 10′s all favor Eury Jr over Lance every major stat that pertains to this seasons runs. If Rick Hendrick is putting more resources to this problem why is it getting worse? That is just BS. But we have seen it all play out before in version 1 with Pete Rondeau only Teresa made the call then for change and put in the JV squad.

RacingDmp
Let me be the first to say "BRAVO" to these easy to read stats, and also "I told you so" as I have been one of very few to say this all along. Tony Eury Sr was replaced by a 2nd tier crew chief and that is a fact. What good is great equipment when the person turning the screws cant get the job done? Rick can stand on that soapbox all day long and say he is doing all this and that to help the #88 but call it what it is. Lance is not the guy, Dont see any comparisons of the #88 crew cheifs anywhere else just how bad Jr is running and all HMS has given him and the attention his team has been getting to make them better (yea O.K.) so I am glad someone else is also taking note.

RacingDmp
Eury Jr not Sr

Anonymous
You all are crazy, why would Hendrick not give the most popular driver the best equipment, or why would do anything that would hinder jr from being a champ. Could you imagine the income Hendrick would make, from making jr a champ. Every Hendrick car this year did exceptional, from jj,to stewart haas and even Brad K won in a Hendrick car. Typical JR nation to blame everything but the driver. JR SUCKS HES A HACK and a spoiled brat living off his dads name. You know who got screwed here was Hendricks, all the money he has invested in Jr and there is no pay off. Not only has Jr let Hendricks down, he has let his fans down. I find it amusing when Jr was plundering at DEI, it was all teresas fault for not investing the money to DEI, well both DEI cars did better then JR this year. Jr nation was so happy jr was going to Hendrick, jr nation swore this was what jr needed and in the right equipment he was going to be on top. WRONG AGAIN, SO let me predict whats next jr nation will say he needs to leave DEI and go to RCR and get in the 3 car, cause he belongs at RCR and he belongs in the 3 and Childres understands him, BLAH BLAH BLAH, The proof is in the numbers and Jr isnt performing.

Anonymous
I think what is more likely really happening is that Dale Jr just isn’t that good, and it takes putting him in the best equipment just to see how big his deficiencies are. The fact is that Dale Jr is kinda like Casey Mears — not much talent, and couldn’t drive the best cars in the sport. I think Dale Jr has made his own bed. When his teammates are in the shop, Junior is out drinking. When his teammates are in the gym, Junior is munching down fast food. When his teammates are giving precise feedback to their teams for adjustments, Junior is just swearing about his crappy car. Let’s face it: DALE JR SUCKS

Anonymous
Jr and Jr brought outdated DEI specs over to Hendricks R @ D cars that were not up to par with what the other drivers were in. What the f— did Hendrick think was going to happen? Jr then watched Hendrick supply Tony Stewart with top of the line cars including specs and a talented crew chief. ( bet Jr would like to have that deal ) Jr has been screwed by Hendrick royally and old Rick is laughing all the way to the bank on Jrs name. No Jr is not the driver his dad was but during his years with DEI did pretty damn good. 5 years is a long time to suffer when you realize you’ve been screwed. Buyouts, are expensive, might happen. D W advised Jr to go with Hendrick, wonder if they are still on speaking terms?

Anonymous
The problem with Junior is conditioning. In an era when many of the drivers train like top-level athletes, it’s not enough to show up Sunday and then drink the rest of the week away with your buddies. If you look at Junior’s races this year, it isn’t that he hasn’t had good cars, and it isn’t that he hasn’t track position. It’s that when the second half of the race begins, the athletes are up front and the non-athletes are tired and suffering from slower reflexes in the back. Would it kill Junior to lift a weight, or eat a piece of fruit that hasn’t been distilled to 80 proof? I mean, really.

Anonymous
No, you suck…Jr hasn’t had the cars to do anything since 2004, and you can’t prove that he sucks otherwise, you say he has the best equipment? I disagree, Rick Hendrick screwed him…he just got Jr for the sponsorship money he would bring, and gave him sorry ass cars and a sorry ass crew, and I would be pissed if I were Jr, but there isn’t much he can do under a 5 year contract…

Anonymous
This is simple, Jr sucks. He has no determination to do better nor does he have the desire. Crew chief isnt the issue the team isnt the issue and we know the equipment isnt the issue, This leaves one thing the driver, bottom line is "toy can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit"