I recently ran a poll on a Dale Earnhardt Jr. friendly message board. I mean VERY Dale Earnhardt Jr. friendly. I asked the following questions: Dale Jr. will not do well, Dale Jr. will win the race, Dale Jr. will get a top 5, Dale Jr. will get a top 10, Dale Jr. will get another top 15, and Dale Jr. will never with with Tony Jr. as crew chief. The results are not scientific. People can vote more than once, and surely, some of them do. This poll was posted about the upcoming Phoenix race.
The answers went this way: Dale Jr. will not do well. - 2 voted that way.
Dale Jr. will win the race. - 23 voted for that.
Dale Jr. will get at top 5. - 46 voted that way.
Dale Jr. will get a top 10. - 9 votes.
Dale Jr. will get a top 15. - 3 votes.
Dale Jr. will never win with with Tony Eury Jr. as crew chief. - 7 votes.
I was a bit intrigued by the last response. I know it could be one person who voted 7 time, or 7 different people, or any combination. Tony Eury Jr. was there for every single Cup, Busch, and non points win. He wasn't always in the capacity of crew chief, but he was there in some capacity. I'm guessing there are possibly better crew chiefs out there, but there are some that are a lot worse. So far, in 2008, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 3 top 5's, 5 top 10's and a pole. He's 4th overall in points, and in this season of uncertainty, that's not totally by accident, or because a crew chief is screwing up.
A lot of arm chair crew chiefs watch the races on Sundays, and it's easy to second guess when you're watching on TV. 2 tires or 4? Gas only? Wedge in or out? Up or down on the tire pressure? There are a lot of things that can happen in the pits, and some of them aren't good. Does that happen only to mediocre teams? Not at all. Jeff Gordon has won 4 Cup championships, and 81 Cup races. He finished dead last at Texas last week. Dead last. Jeff didn't blow an engine. He got in a spin that caused some damage, but mostly Steve Letart, Jeff's crew chief just could not figure out how to get the handling right on the car. Neither could Jeff. Even championship teams have bad days.
Dale Jr. finished 12th in the Samsung 500 at Texas. He started on the pole, and eventually finished in 12th, one lap down. As bad as that sounds, there were 30 other cars out there having worse problems than Dale Jr.
There are no really easy answers for how to win races. If the car is a piece of crap when it comes off the hauler, it either remains a piece of crap all weekend or the crew gets it fixed. If the 24 crew of Jeff Gordon can't turn crap into diamonds, then I don't know who can. None of the Hendrick Motorsports cars have won a points race this year, but so far, Dale Jr. is the best of the Hendrick drivers in points.
A large part of a successful relationship between a driver and his crew chief is trust. Dale Jr. and Tony Eury Jr. are cousins, and they grew up together. The are basically like brothers, and always have been. Dale Jr. trusts Tony Jr. with his life, every week, and it was his decision to have his cousin and friend on the pit box every week.
If Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants Tony Jr. on the pit box, that's good enough for me.