Time for Junior to live up to the name
The 2010 season will be the defining season of Dale Jr's career. He will either be a winner or a also-ran with a famous name.
Talent-wise he is ruining the good family name his father established
This will be his third year at Hendrick, with noticeably poor finishes, musical crew chief chairs, and other drama producing only two top 5 finishes. We all thought that Dale Jr, though surely not the level of Hendrick's other drivers, would show well and be a contender for the Cup.
"Sure we were frustrated about the results," Earnhardt said. "But I think we were on top of things more often than not as we went along and tried some new things that hopefully will work out as we move forward."
"Hopefully, next year will be better...I want to keep racing because I think we need more racing. We're not good as a team yet. We need to race more. We don't need to say, 'All right, let's get this year over with and get ready for next year.' ... We have to try during the off-season to fix what we can without being able to go to the racetrack and seeing if that's working. Hopefully, when we show up at Daytona, we've made the right calls."
Lance McGrew replaced Earnhardt's cousin Tony Eury Jr. in May. After applying his influence and touches from deeper in the operation and construction of the cars themselves, there was some improvement, but nothing close to what is expected at Hendrick Motorsports.
"I inherited some things when I first stepped into this role that I had to have the team work through," McGrew said. "That was a bit of a challenge for me personally but I thought as we were able to prepare cars from scratch we were able to put some things in place we were all comfortable with."
"I've had a relationship with Dale for a long time, all the way back to [team owner Rick Hendrick's son] Ricky and his friendship with Dale in that circle," McGrew said. "I was really surprised when I first started working with Dale -- his confidence was beat down as much as it was. I expected him to be a lot more positive and a lot more understanding of the situation.
"Since then I've definitely seen a light in his eye and a strut in his step as he comes to the car. We don't have the bottom-line finishes to back up what I feel like we've started to achieve on that team, but I feel like the steps are in place to get there. I'm excited about that."
"We made a lot of changes in the team," Earnhardt said. "We swapped some people around with the 5 car to try to bridge that gap between the two teams, get them working together a little bit better."
"We feel like we got -- attitude is everything. Going to the track with a better attitude. Team is pretty pumped up. We're building some cars. Everybody feels good about Lance, rallying behind him, what he's doing. So I'm ready to go to the racetrack, man. Should be good."
If Jr. doesn't up his game, don't expect Rick Hendrick to hang onto him just because he has a famous name. Hendrick has show top drivers the door before. Kurt Busch is a prime example.
Should Earnhardt not win a race or make the Chase, 2010 will and should be considered a failure, as will the whole transition from the former DEI to Hendrick.
The amazing part is that he is still the most popular driver on the circuit among fans. This really is not a complimentary note of NASCAR fans. One would think that fans would be attracted to an exciting driver that is at least contending for wins. But then again, in NASCAR how many times have we heard a driver or crew chief talk about a great race...finishing 10th? Well, so far...that is a great day for Jr.