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Lance McGrew – Q&A

When team owner Rick Hendrick decided to replace Tony Eury Jr. this week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got more than a new crew chief - he got a brain trust.

After Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway, Lance McGrew takes over as interim crew chief for Earnhardt's #88 Chevrolet. As additional resources, Earnhardt can draw on Brian Whitesell, manager of the #5 and #88 teams, and long-time Hendrick Motorsports engineer Rex Stump, who designed the controversial T-Rex chassis Jeff Gordon drove to victory in the 1997 all-star race.

Whitesell will serve as Earnhardt's crew chief on Sunday, since McGrew already was committed to working with the #25 Hendrick Chevy driven by Brad Keselowski. Starting next week at Pocono, however, it will be McGrew's responsibility to help Earnhardt bridge the performance gap between the #88 car and the Chevys driven by teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin.

Sporting News' Reid Spencer caught up with McGrew in the Sprint Cup garage Friday morning at Dover…

Q:
Are you ready to go from under the radar to under the microscope?

Lance McGrew:
It's only the most famous driver in the United States of America.

Q:
Are you a candidate for the job full-time?

Lance McGrew:
I believe so. It's not something that I've 100 per cent asked to do, but I think that Mr. Hendrick, in his infinite wisdom, always has a master plan. He has a very unique way of putting the right people together in a situation. A lot of times he can see things far enough out ahead that he'll make the right decision for you.

Q:
Are you intimidated by this opportunity?

Lance McGrew:
Well, I don't know if any crew chief would sit here and tell you it's not a little daunting to have the most popular driver in your stable. It's a challenge. The reason why we do what we do for a living is because, ultimately, we want a challenge. Unfortunately for this business, every Monday morning the report card is out, and we have to jump back on the horse and get ready for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday of the next week. For me, I'm not the most outgoing person in the whole world, and obviously the media blitz is not exactly what I prefer to be doing right now. It's part of the job, and it's something I'll have to work on as well.

Q:
Rex Stump is credited with designing the T-Rex car that Jeff Gordon drove in the 1997 all-star race. Is there room for any of that kind of creativity with NASCAR's new race car?

Lance McGrew:
I think more than anything else, the R&D group in itself -- I feel like that's why Hendrick has really thrived. The simple fact is that Rex was so involved in it (the development of the new car) from the very beginning. We did a ton of testing before this car was ever unveiled, and it shows on the racetrack. Rex has a wealth of knowledge in a lot of areas, and he's a tremendous resource standing next to you when you're on top of the trailer watching the cars go around the racetrack.

Q:
Which perception is more accurate, that all the Hendrick drivers have the same equipment, or that Earnhardt and Eury were running something substantially different from the setups of the other three Hendrick drivers?

Lance McGrew:
Every situation's different. Ultimately, a driver's looking for a 'feel,' and sometimes it takes you down different paths. Jimmie doesn't drive exactly the same thing as Jeff. Jeff doesn't drive exactly the same thing as Mark Martin or any of the three. You can't really say that they were off the page in that regard, because ultimately, everybody's trying to achieve the same thing. The driver's feeling one thing, and the crew chief's making adjustments for how he feels. Sometimes it leads you down the right path. Sometimes it doesn't.

Q:
You've had the opportunity to work with a couple of the most talented, high-profile drivers in the garage in Kyle Busch and now Dale Jr. What do you see as the fundamental differences between the two?

Lance McGrew:
They're apples and oranges. It's kind of hard to make that comparison with anybody, let alone two racecar drivers. They're different people. Kyle's very aggressive. Junior's more methodical, I believe. He's definitely a thinker. He's a racecar driver that thinks as he drives around the racetrack, and he understands the fact that it's a long race, and he's trying to set himself up to be where he wants to be at the end of the race. Kyle definitely wants to lead every lap. If you watched the video from the Coke 600 last week, when he was leading, he wrecked three or four times off Turn 4 but didn't hit anything. You could definitely tell he was driving hard.


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Lance McGrew and Dale Earnhardt Jr [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, center, celebrates with team owner Rick Hendrick, left, daughter Ella Sophia and wife Ingrid Vandebosch by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents, the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, qualified eighth Friday, June 6, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Earnhardt, Jr. is fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Superman Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 22, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, speaks with Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Superman Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 22, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Superman Chevrolet SS qualified 10th Thursday, May 22, 2014 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Earnhardt, Jr. is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by: HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Tide Chevrolet, celebrates with team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway in the early morning hours of April 26, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, crashes early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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