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