Saturday, September 4, 2010
No Dale Earnhardt Jr. changes planned
By David Newton
HAMPTON, Ga. -- The owner of Hendrick Motorsports has no plan to separate Dale Earnhardt Jr. from crew chief Lance McGrew going into the Chase or next season.
"That's correct," Rick Hendrick said on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "We make decisions as things develop during the season. Right now we've got a game plan and we're sticking to it.
"Next week, going into the Chase and into the Chase our plan is for those two guys to be together."
Earnhardt is 18th in points and expected to miss the Chase for the second straight year and third time in four years. He hasn't won since Michigan in 2008, a span of 81 consecutive races.
His struggles started speculation that Hendrick might make a change going into the Chase that begins in two weeks at New Hampshire.
"If you miss the Chase and you just decide you're gonna change something just to be changing it I think that's a mistake," Hendrick said during a press conference to name a three-year extension with Quaker State motor oil that includes a four-race deal on Mark Martin's car in 2011.
"I've never tried to do that. I keep my options open, but at the same time if the driver and the crew chief are getting along and working together and they're trying, that's all I can ask for."
Hendrick said he's pleased with the way Earnhardt and McGrew are getting along. He believes the problems with the No. 88 team go beyond the driver and crew chief. Although he didn't mention it, Martin who shares the same shop with Earnhardt ranks 14th in points and also likely will miss the Chase.
A year ago, Hendrick Motorsports took the top three spots in the final Sprint Cup standings with Jimmie Johnson, Martin and Jeff Gordon. Johnson is ninth in points and Gordon is second.
"We're not happy with where we are as an organization, but we're working on it," Hendrick said. "Nobody is blaming anybody and nobody is giving up. I'm really happy with my whole group and the way they work together."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.