Has changing crew chiefs made a difference for Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
Tony Eury Jr. lasted 12 races this season with Earnhardt. Since then, we’ve run another 12 races, making this the perfect time to take a snapshot of replacement Lance McGrew’s performance. Have the driver’s results improved at all?
First, consider his performance all year in the table below.
Remember that Watermills, as I determined earlier this week, are the best way to determine the probability of winning a Sprint Cup title, and therefore overall performance. A Watermill is Wins + Top 10s + Lead Lap Finishes + Racing at the Finish.
Let’s take a look at the summary between the two halves of the season so far. My apologies for the size of the print below. You may want View-Zoom In on your browser.
At quick glance, it does not appear there have been any improvements. His main improvement has been the increase in lead lap finishes. He has experienced a marginal gain in Watermills and in his average start.
But in the last 12 races, Earnhardt actually has fewer top 10s, more DNFs, fewer points, fewer laps led and a worse average finish. He has actually scored the 21st most points in this set of 12 races, so he has done worse in the standings compared to earlier this season.
The one bright side is the last two races, where he scored consecutive top 10s for the first time all year. Let’s see if that picks up in the final 12 races of the season. So far there isn’t anything else hopeful to point to.
Is it too early to say that the crew chief was not Earnhardt’s problem?
Take a look at the table below. We see the breakdown of points standings for the first 12 races of the year, as well as the following 12 races. See how Earnhardt has been stuck in the same part of the pack, and has actually dropped down a bit? Guys like Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray have leapfrogged him. They all have been able to make adjustments and improve their performance. Earnhardt’s team has not shown that capability.
Finally, the bottom table shows how each driver has improved from the first 12 races to the next 12. See Earnhardt down there in the lower portion of the pack. He is one of the drivers who have actually had a worse performance in this portion of the season compared to the previous.
The evidence suggests that replacing Tony Eury Jr. has not improved Earnhardt’s performance. We will have to wait and see if these two most recent top 10s suggest that a new trend is coming for the final third of the season.
(All Left Turns contributor Dale Watermill is also the editor of the racing statistics blog 36 Races. E-mail him at email@example.com.)