Eury: DEI should have kept status quo

Updated: June 30, 2005, 7:04 PM ET
Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. acknowledges that the team made a costly mistake by swapping crews and cars with teammate Michael Waltrip during the offseason.

Tony Eury Sr., now the director of competition at Dale Earnhardt Inc., said Thursday that the somewhat-surprising move turned out to be detrimental for both teams in Nextel Cup competition. He was the first team member to call the changes an error.

Earnhardt, driving the No. 8 Chevrolet, has no wins, just one top-10 finish in the last eight races and sits 18th in the points. Waltrip rebounded from a rough start and has three top-10 finishes in the last six races, but is 15th in the standings.

"I guess we made a bad move over the winter, and our cars down there in the 8 shop weren't as good as we thought they were," Eury said. "When you got something good I guess you should leave it alone. We won six races with him [Earnhardt] last year."

Some might believe Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway would offer DEI a perfect chance to turn around its disappointing season. But after winning 11 of 16 restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega between 2001 and 2004, Earnhardt and Waltrip haven't been nearly as dominant this year.

Earnhardt finished third at Daytona in February and 15th at Talladega in May. Waltrip was 37th at Daytona and third at Talladega.

The crew swaps might have prompted the slide.

Earnhardt's crew, including car chief Tony Eury Jr., took all of his cars and moved to Waltrip's shop, while Pete Rondeau, who finished 2004 as Waltrip's crew chief, took his crew and cars and went to Earnhardt's shop. Rondeau was fired in May and replaced on an interim basis by Steve Hmiel, the longtime technical director at DEI.

The idea was to raise everyone's game.

Instead, it backfired.

"We know we have problems we have to fix," Eury Sr. said. "We don't want to make problems somewhere else trying to fix one problem.

"We don't need to make quick decisions. We made a quick decision and we paid for it. We're not going to make that mistake again."

Foyt to NASCAR?
IndyCar Series regular A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of A.J. Foyt, recently tested an ARCA car for Evernham Motorsports and might be in the team's plans for the future.

"A.J. was very fast in the car, and we were very impressed with him," team owner Ray Evernham said. "He's probably going to run some Busch races for us later this year, and we'll do some further testing."

The 21-year-old Foyt is in his third IndyCar season, but hasn't finished higher than ninth.

"The kid's been struggling a little bit in the IRL," Evernham said. "He has a lot of people who believe in him.

"Who knows what's going to happen in the IRL shuffle? But he could be a guy who ends up in my driver-development program."

Weather issues
Steady and sometimes-heavy rain Thursday washed out two practice sessions for the Busch race and two more for the Pepsi 400.

Practice for the Busch race was moved to Friday morning, followed by practice for the Nextel Cup event. But the forecast called for widespread thunderstorms in the area with an 80-percent chance of rain Friday and a 70-percent chance Saturday.

"I got here this morning and instead of needing a car, I needed a boat," Nextel Cup driver Jimmie Johnson said.

Several Nextel Cup drivers said practice at Daytona, where NASCAR mandates much of the car setups and leaves teams with few variables to change, isn't nearly as important as it would be at other tracks.

"There's not a lot to be gained, learned here," points leader Greg Biffle said. "If we went out and practiced for three hours, the amount of stuff I'm going to change on my race car and the things I'm going to learn is going to be minimal."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press