Saturday, October 17, 2009
Hendrick leans toward keeping McGrew
By David Newton
CONCORD, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick is committed to Lance McGrew remaining Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief for the rest of the Sprint Cup season and appears to be leaning toward keeping them together in 2010.
"My philosophy has always been if you can fix something rather than start all over then I'd whole lot rather fix it," the owner of Hendrick Motorsports said before Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"When I see the car as the best car out there in my group for two or three of the races and then just have crappy luck, it's almost like, 'Hey, let's focus on the little things that can make it better.' "
Hendrick's comments came 24 hours after Earnhardt expressed frustration with how his season has gone since switching from long-time crew chief Tony Eury Jr. to McGrew in June.
"It's like really encouraging one day and the next day it's equally discouraging," NASCAR's most popular driver said on Saturday. "That gets really old. I'm about to the end of my rope on it."
Earnhardt didn't give McGrew a ringing endorsement. He said on ESPN's NASCAR Now that the next two races were make or break not only for this season but next season, and he wasn't feeling that confident.
Hendrick said he is encouraged with the performance of the team, noting again bad luck has contributed to six straight finishes of 17th or worse that has Earnhardt buried at 22nd in points.
"We just can't get a break," Hendrick said after meeting with McGrew and the No. 88 team. "It's frustrating for all of us. If we were going south I would be super concerned. To run like we did at Loudon, to run like we did in California and Kansas, we definitely turned the corner."
Hendrick was glad Earnhardt expressed his frustration publicly.
"I'm kind of happy he was upset," he said. "I get that way. I just don't say it. It's the same level of frustration. What I admire a lot about Junior is he says what he thinks. He's disappointed and frustrated.
"We know we've seen the daylight. I was trying to go from 20th to 15th to 10th. Now we've been solidly in the top five and just can't close it. It's not anybody's fault. We've just had terrible racing luck."
Hendrick said Earnhardt's struggles have made it tough for him to enjoy the success of his other three drivers. Jimmie Johnson entered Saturday's race first in points, followed by Mark Martin in second and Jeff Gordon in fifth.
Hendrick said he has no timetable for when he will make a decision on Earnhardt's crew chief for next season. He wasn't quite sure what his driver meant when he said he needed a "dictator" like he had when Tony Eury Sr. was his crew chief in the Nationwide Series and early in the Cup series.
But Hendrick didn't sound like a man that was ready to make a major change.
"All I can look for in a team is we're getting better rather than backing up, and we're getting better," he said. "This is a hard deal. Sometimes, when you start to doing good and then you have a problem, it's worse than when you're steady Eddie.
"We haven't made any decisions other than we're going to try to do the best we can."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.