Commentary

Eury Jr. eager to get fresh start at Hendrick Motorsports

Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. isn't just looking forward to a fresh start with driver and cousin Dale Earnhardt Jr. when they move to Hendrick Motorsports. He's looking forward to who else he will get to work with, writes David Newton.

Updated: September 22, 2007, 9:13 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

DOVER, Del. -- Tony Eury Jr. often felt like the lone wolf at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

If things didn't go well with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s famous No. 8 machine, he felt there was nowhere to turn for advice, nobody to help him figure out how to get better, nobody to make sure what was a problem one week wouldn't be a problem the next.

That's one reason he can't wait to get to Hendrick Motorsports, where he'll officially move the Monday after the Oct. 7 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

"It's going to be better over there because when something happens, it's going to be addressed," Earnhardt's crew chief said on Friday at Dover International Speedway. "It's some credibility. Somebody is going to take some responsibility.

"There's none of that over there [at DEI]. If we blow up, everybody goes, 'OK, this happened. Let's go to the next one.' Over there, they're going to take care of the problem to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Eury began thinking about an early exit to HMS in June shortly after Earnhardt announced he was going there so he could get a head start on how things work at NASCAR's strongest organization.

The decision became easier after Earnhardt blew his fifth engine of the season three weeks ago at Richmond. That was the third blown engine in eight races, taking NASCAR's most popular driver from a Chase contender to a spectator.

"At Watkins Glen, we over-revved the motor [in practice]," Eury said. "We talked about changing the motor. They said, 'We'll check it out.' … We changed two valve springs. Sometimes you're asking for trouble, and we got it."

There are enough checks and balances to keep that from happening five times at HMS, where Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the points lead.

There's been only one blown engine -- Casey Mears at Darlington -- this season between four HMS drivers.

"Like that power steering going out at Chicago," Eury said. "There's going to be a guy there going, 'Hey, we need to do away with this pump bearing after two races.' They've got nothing like that over [at DEI]."

The size of the staff alone at HMS will be a step up from DEI.

"We've got a lot of great people at DEI, but their staff is probably doubled," Eury said of Hendrick. "So you've got a lot more people you can put more responsibility on to come up with ideas. The more ideas that are out there, the better you can make the cars run.

"You're not making a decision on your own. You've got three people just as good as you that can help you make those decisions so you don't feel like a lone wolf."

While DEI has spent the past few months reorganizing and growing -- the merger with Ginn Racing took it from a three-car to four-car organization -- Eury said the company may be four years from being as strong as it was with Earnhardt and him. DEI officials did not wish to comment on Eury's assertions.

He's concerned that the No. 1 team of Martin Truex Jr., which is in the Chase, will feel the pressure he has for much of the past eight seasons.

"With Dale Jr. and me leaving, they're losing a lot," he said. "It's a lot more than what they think. A few guys on this team are going to go with me and a few are going other places.

"When you've got two teams running as good as these are and break one down, then you're putting the load back on one again."

Eury plans to take four members of the No. 8 crew with him to Hendrick, and he expects others to go elsewhere once the season ends. He said one has already committed to JR Motorsports, the Busch Series team run by Earnhardt and HMS.

"They're taking a little setback with this deal," Eury said of DEI.

As Earnhardt believes he's the best driver in Nextel Cup as he said during Wednesday's press conference to announce his number and sponsor for 2008, Eury believes he is one of the best crew chiefs.

Jeff Burton
If I had to scale them, I believe I'm in the top five. But every crew chief that looks good is surrounded by good people.

Tony Eury Jr.

With the proper support staff around him, he's confident that will show.

"If I had to scale them, I believe I'm in the top five," he said. "But every crew chief that looks good is surrounded by good people."

Eury already is spending time with his new teammates. He flew back from New Hampshire on Sunday with HMS crew chiefs and spent Wednesday at Hendrick's Concord, N.C., shop.

People already are calling him Little Robert after his grandfather, Robert Gee, who was a longtime employee at HMS.

He hopes to be in a position, if an arrangement can be worked out between Hendrick and DEI, to test with Earnhardt in a HMS car next month at Atlanta.

"It's going to be a big benefit," Eury said of leaving early. "You can see what every guy does, how they do things. You can pick on it a whole lot faster than sitting at the shop somewhere and somebody saying this is how we do it when we get to the track. I'll jump right in and help those guys."

Eury said all of Earnhardt's cars for the remainder of the season should be ready when he leaves. He's confident his replacement, Tony Gibson, will do a good job the remainder of this season and next year for the No. 01 team.

Mark Martin and the entire No. 01 crew will move into the 8 in 2008.

But first Eury would like to win one more time before leaving, which makes Talladega the perfect place since Earnhardt has won five times there.

"You know, a lot of people, and there's a lot of friendships have been made through the years, so it's going to be tough walking out of there," Eury said. "But at the same time, you know where I'm going, Rick [Hendrick] will take care of me pretty good."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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