Hendrick gives 88 team a passing grade

DOVER, Del. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn't have been more concise after his first race with a new crew chief: "I'm happier," he said.

"I would like to have run better than 12th," he said of Sunday's Autism Speaks 400, in which he ran as high as third, and in the top 10 for much of the race before a late over-adjustment threw his car off.

Team owner Rick Hendrick, who replaced Tony Eury Jr. with Lance McGrew as Earnhardt's interim crew chief coming into this race, said he "listened to them all day" on the radio.

"The communication was extremely good, and the feedback [from Earnhardt on how the car was behaving] was really good," Hendrick continued.

"Overall, I'd give it a really good grade," Hendrick said. "I think had we not had that one adjustment, we'd have had a top-five or -six car.

"For the guys to work that well together, this quick, I was really pleased."

"Today was exactly where we need to be," McGrew said. "You can't go from where we were to first -- it's not going to happen. This week we were 12th, and we'll keep moving forward.

"We had fantastic communication all day," McGrew said.

After the race, "I told all my boys, I said, 'We're building Rome here,'" Earnhardt said, "'and it might take a while to get it finished, but if everybody works hard we'll get it right.'

"And this is a good start for us."

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.